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0 

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND 
LETTERS OF 

MRS M. O. W. OLIPHANT 



ARRANGED AND EDITED BY 

MRS HARRY COGHILL 



SECOND EDITION 



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 
EDINBURGH AND LONDON 
MDCCCXCIX 



HAnv:r: r ) c?ll^e us.iary 
fr;: ; t: : i: :;,iy of 
JOIMJ C . ' :: G1\Y 
GIFT OF c.-:ay 



PREFACE. 



In some of the last words she ever wrote, Mrs Oliphant 
described herself as " a writer very little given to explana- 
tions or to any personal appearance " ; and probably of 
no writer that ever lived was this so absolutely true a de- 
scription. Her work, enormous in volume and multifari- 
ous in kind, was given to the public ; her life was for her 
children first, and after them for the small circle of loving 
and intimate friends who closely surrounded her. Of 
these, many, in the last darkening years of her life, had 
passed away, and with one small exception it is in these 
years only that we find in her writings any personal 
revelations, intentional or unintentional. They were 
very rarely intentional, and when they were, it was of 
deliberate purpose and for a fixed reason, as in two recent 
papers in ' Blackwood * — " The Thoughts of a Believer " 
and "The Verdict of Old Age." The last and most 
touching instance is in the only preface which she ever 
attached to a novel — the few pages called " On the Ebb 
Tide," prefacing * The Ways of Life.' 

When she wrote those pages, worn out with bodily 
and mental suffering, she thought she felt in herself the 
beginnings of failure. As a matter of fact, she had never 
written more brilliantly than at times during the con- 
cluding year of her life; but she had never since the 



vi 



PREFACE. 



death of her last child been conscious of that happy 
mastery of her work which had supplied many of the 
pleasantest hours of the past. " I am behind the fashion," 
she said herself ; "I have no longer the place or the value 
I had." She felt certain that the difficulty of producing 
good work must increase for her (as, indeed, at sixty- 
nine it well might), and she greatly longed to be released 
from her service and allowed to join those who had gone 
before her. But until within the last few months she 
had very little hope of escape. When first those who 
loved her were anxious, alarmed by her pallor, her in- 
ability to take food, and what they knew of her nights 
of sleepless sorrow, she used to smile and say, " Don't 
be afraid ; there never is anything the matter with me." 
Her health had almost always been perfect, withstanding 
every kind of fatigue and sorrow, and she could not think 
that it would fail her. But when, only about ten days 
before the end, it became certain that she was mortally 
ill, she said, as she had imagined Mr Sandford saying, 
"God is very good; He gives me everything." 

In this quiet confidence that everything had been so 
perfectly arranged for her, with her mind clear, even a 
little flicker of fun in her eyes at times, always a tender 
smile and word for those she loved, a great writer passed 
away from us, leaving a blank that there is certainly no 
one capable of filling. There have been, perhaps there 
are (and she herself would have been the first to say it 
with full belief), greater novelists, but who has ever 
achieved the same variety of literary work with any- 
thing like the same level of excellence? A great deal 
of her very best remains at present anonymous — bio- 
graphical and critical papers, and others dealing with 
an extraordinary variety of subjects. But merely to 
divide her books into classes gives some little idea of 
the range of her powers. Her novels, long and short, 



PREFACE. 



vii 



can hardly number much less than a hundred, but these 
for a long time back were by no means her works of 
predilection; and in the three last sad years all fiction 
had been heavy labour to her. Next in importance come 
her biographies — Edward Irving, Count de Montalem- 
bert, Principal Tulloch, Laurence Oliphant, and a num- 
ber of smaller ones, some involving great labour and 
research ; while her last work of this class, two volumes 
of the 'History of the House of Blackwood,' occupied 
two years of her life. Then there are the brilliant papers 
on the reign of George II., collected some years ago, 
and those on the reign of Queen Anne; the laborious, 
but not entirely successful, ' Literary History of England,' 
and 'A Child's History of Scotland.' 'The Makers of 
Florence ' began a fresh series in 1876 ; it was followed 
at intervals by 'The Makers of Venice,' 'Rome,' and 
'Jerusalem,' each of these books involving immense 
labour, and all, except ' Rome,' having its materials 
carefully collected on the spot. The topography of Rome 
she knew well ; every aspect of it had been engraved on 
her memory with the pencil of sorrow. Finally, there 
remains one of the most wonderful sets of writings in 
our language — that which began very simply and sweetly 
with 'A Little Pilgrim,' and went on through various 
' Stories of the Seen and the Unseen,' reaching a strange 
poetic power and beauty in 'A Beleaguered City,' and 
finding, to those who were near enough to her life to 
guess the thoughts with which it was written, a most 
fitting end in ' The Land of Suspense.' Thus she had 
laboured in almost every field of literature, winning every 
kind of success, and never, in all the fifty years (except, 
perhaps, for one moment in the early days of her widow- 
hood), making a real failure. One day in the last week 
of her life she said, "Many times I have come to a 
corner which I could see no way round, but each time 



viii 



PREFACE. 



a way has been found for me." The way was often 
found by the strengthening of her own indomitable 
courage, which, as long as her children were left to her, 
never seemed to flag, — it was the courage of perfect love. 
But it is certain that if she had had no moral qualities 
except courage, she could not have toiled on as she did : 
a saving sense of humour, a great capacity to enjoy what 
was really comic and everything that was beautiful, made 
life easier to her, and " the great joy of doing kindnesses " 
was one never absent from her. So that whatever suffer- 
ing might be lying in wait to seize upon her solitary 
hours, there was almost always a pleasant welcome and 
talk of the very best to be found in her modest drawing- 
room. If the visitors were congenial, her charm of 
manner awoke, her simple fitness of speech clothed 
every subject with life and grace, her beautiful eyes 
shone (they never sparkled), and the spell of her ex- 
quisite womanliness made a charmed circle round her. 
She was never a beautiful woman at any time of her 
life, though for many years she was a very pretty one, 
but she had, as a family inheritance, lovely hands, which 
were constantly busy, in what she called her idle time, 
with some dainty sewing or knitting; she had those 
wonderful eyes which kept their beauty to the last 
minute of her life ; and she had a most exquisite dainti- 
ness in all her ways and in the very atmosphere about 
her which was "pure womanly." 

It was just at the moment when all England kept 
festival for the Queen's second Jubilee — in the last half 
of June 1897 — that Mrs Oliphant lay dying in a sunny 
little house at Wimbledon. Happily free from acute 
pain, she had passed into a serene region of perfect 
peace, out of which she spoke to us who were about 
her with all her old brightness, giving such information 
and directions as she thought might be useful after. 



PREFACE. 



ix 



And one distinct injunction she laid upon us — no bio- 
graphy of her was to be written. 

Many years ago she had begun in a time of great trial 
and loneliness to write down scraps more or less auto- 
biographical, and later had added more cheerful pictures 
of her early life. Later still, to please her last surviving 
child, she continued this memoir, bringing it up to the 
time when her two sons went to Oxford. She must, 
it would seem, have intended to add to it some record 
of the remaining twenty years of her life, and possibly 
in her last hours she forgot how great a gap was left. 
At any rate she bade us deal with this autobiography 
as we thought best, believing that it would serve for 
all that was necessary. 

But when those to whom she had intrusted it came 
to examine the manuscript, a great disappointment befell 
them. It had no beginning; scraps had been written 
at long intervals and by no means consecutively. The 
first entry in her book was written in i860, and mentions, 
rather than records, the struggles of her early widow- 
hood. The second, in 1864, is the outpouring of her 
grief for the loss of her one daughter, her little Maggie, 
suddenly snatched from her in Rome. After this is the 
long gap of twenty-one years, till the time when in her 
bright house at Windsor with both her sons still left to 
her, and her two adopted daughters about her, she was 
moved to write down a more connected and less sad 
record. But even then the thread is snapped two or 
three times before it finally breaks off after the death 
of both her sons, and it may be that the needful fitting 
together has not been quite smoothly done after all. 

So far, however, there is a narrative in her own writing. 
After 1892 there is nothing, and it seemed impossible to 
allow the late years of her life — full of work, full of 
varying scenes and interests — to remain altogether un- 



X 



PREFACE. 



recorded. The best thing that could be done, therefore, 
was to supplement her manuscript with letters, and to 
connect these with the slightest possible thread of story, 
thus endeavouring to obey her wishes and yet gratify 
the many readers who have for so long a stretch of years 
regarded her as a friend. 

Here, however, another and most unexpected difficulty 
occurred. Three or four of her most intimate friends 
— two especially to whom she was in the habit of writing 
fall and interesting letters — have died within the last 
few years, and the whole correspondences which would 
have been so valuable have been destroyed. One series 
of letters, beginning in 1865 a °d ending only with her 
death, is too intimate to furnish much of general interest, 
though a few selections from it are given; and several 
friends have added each two or three letters to the 
collection. The largest portion of the correspondence 
now printed belongs to the Blackwood family. Her 
faithful and highly valued friend, the late Mr John 
Blackwood, his sister the late Miss Blackwood, and Mr 
William Blackwood, the present Editor of 1 Maga,' were 
all recipients of letters which are very characteristic and 
very interesting, and give almost a connected history of 
Mrs Oliphant's literary work. Some others come from Mr 
Craik (Macmillan & Co.), and some from other business 
correspondents. A few letters to her sons have been 
added, and in all cases it has seemed advisable to famish 
now and then a letter written to her to explain those 
written by her. 

Very little more than this has been attempted. Only 
when the end must be chronicled another hand takes 
up the pen she has laid down and sorrowfully records 
the close of a life — not faultless, indeed, but noble, loving, 
and womanly in the highest sense, and of a literary 
career fall of sound, skilful, and serviceable labours. 



PREFACE. 



xi 



Let me end this short preface with an extract from 
a letter addressed to Mr Blackwood in 1876, and express- 
ing her feeling with regard to one from Mr Kinglake : — 

"How very good of Mr Kinglake to interest himself 
about the poor little reputation which, alas ! ' thae muv- 
ing things ca'ed weans * have forced me to be so careless 
of. ... I think, though, if ever the time comes that I 
can lie on my oars, after the boys are out in the world, 
or when the time comes which there is no doubt about, 
when I shall be out of the world, that I will get a little 
credit — but not much now, there is so much of me!" 

A. L. C. 



March 1899. 



CONTENTS. 



FAGS 

PREFACE v 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY— 

I. 

A life of incessant work— A misunderstood Scottish trait— The 
freedom from human ties— George Eliot— Early memories — 
A domestic miracle — The old type of Scotch mother — The 
Carlyles— An Irish admirer— First attempt at writing— An 
unauthorised political canvasser — * Mrs Margaret Maitland' 
—First impressions of London — A compliment from Jeffrey — 
'Caleb Field'— The prophetic ache in the heart— A visit to 
Edinburgh— Sir Daniel Wilson— " Delta"— Major William 
Blackwood— ' Katie Stewart* — Marriage— Face to face with 
the inevitable — The mystery of grief — Disillusionment in 
London — Mrs S. C. Hall— Mary Howitt— Rosa Bonheur— 
Miss Mulock— Frank Smedley— Simple pleasures . . 3 



II. 

Early married life in London — A doubtful compliment — A 
halcyon time — Disloyal workmen — Ordered south — Mar- 
seilles — A generous landlady — First impressions of Florence 
— A vivid and painful recollection — A peaceful revolution — 
The companionship of pictures — Rome — An artist's salon — A 
soldier priest — Death of Mr Oliphant— A cheerless outlook — 
A point of etiquette — A magic name to hotel-keepers — Char- 
lotte Bronte* — Insensibility to praise or blame . . .41 



xiv 



CONTENTS. 



III. 

A village in Fife — John Blackwood — A house in Edinburgh — A 
critical moment in her literary career — A notable success with 
the Carlingford series — A vivacious Scotswoman — Rome and 
the • Iliad ' — A story of Professor Aytoun — The broken bread 
of science — A fervent Irvingite — Principal Story — The pathos 
attending the writing of the autobiography — A widower's 
philosophy — A visit to Carlyle at Cheyne Row — Mrs Carlyle 
— The study of human nature an impertinence — J. A. Symonds 
—Ealing— Mr Blackett— The author of 'John Halifax'— 
* Salem Chapel —Pleasant memories of the Carlyles— Fine 
writing — Principal Tulloch — Roseneath — The tragedy of a 
false quantity — A journey to Rome — The shadow of death — 
The mystery of the " Unseen" . . . .68 



IV. 

Twice fatal Rome — Paris — Count de Montalembert— Carlyle 
and Montalembert — Notre Dame — A French grande dame — 
A bohemian Latin tutor— An Italian refugee — Father Prout 
— A miraculous ease of mind — A retrospect — M I wrote as I 
read "—Normandy — A rash adventure — St Malo— A coaching 
journey — Windsor — A house full of entertainment — Want 
of musical appreciation — The M Little Pilgrim " — Some inter- 
esting neighbours — A merry heart goes all the way — An 
alarming interruption — The interest of unimportant details 
— Which was God and which was Mammon? — A critical 
moment— The difficulties of a domestic budget — Was it 
tempting Providence ?— Two-edged compliments— A Sloane 
Street salon — Lady Martin — Mr Pigott — First impression of 
Tennyson — Mr Fawcett — A beautiful appetite — A scheme of 
pleasure interrupted by death — No prouder woman in the 
world — The might-have-been — Mr Leslie Stephen — The bur- 
den and heat of the day — A bitter disappointment — Death of 
Cyril Oliphant — The filling of the cup of sorrow . 95 

LETTERS (1850-1897) 151 



List op Mrs Oliph ant's Published Works . .441 
Mrs Oliphant's Contributions to 'Blackwood's Magazine' 44s 



PLATES. 



MRS OLIPHANT ..... Frontispiece 

From a Drawing made in 1895 by Janet Mary Oliphant. 

WINDSOR, 1874. M. 0. W. O., C. F. O., F. R. O., F. W. Facing p. 246 
From a Photograph, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



I. 

Windsor, ist February 1885. 1 
Twenty-one years have passed since I wrote what is on 
the opposite page, 2 I have just been reading it all with 
tears ; sorry, very sorry for that poor soul who has lived 
through so much since. Twenty-one years is a little 
lifetime. It is curious to think that I was not very 
young, nearly thirty-six, at that time, and that I am not 
very old, nearly fifty-seven, now. Life, though it is short, 
is very long, and contains so much. And one does not, 
to one's consciousness, change as one's outward appear- 
ance and capabilities do. Doesn't Mrs Somerville say 
that, so far from feeling old, she was not always quite 
certain (up in the seventies) whether she was quite 
grown up ! I entirely understand the feeling, though I 
have had enough, one would think, to make one feel old. 
Since the time when that most unexpected, most terrible 
blow overtook me in Rome — where her father had died 
four years before — I have had trials which, I say it with 

1 It has been thought better to print the earlier portion, or such of it as 
might interest general readers, after this part of Mrs 01iphant*s journal, so as 
to preserve the sequence of the narrative. — Ed. 

* See p. 92 and footnote.— Ed. 



4 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



full knowledge of all the ways of mental suffering, have 
been harder than sorrow. I have lived a laborious life, 
incessant work, incessant anxiety — and yet so strange, so 
capricious is this human being, that I would not say I 
have had an unhappy life. I have said this to one or two 
friends who know faintly without details what I have had 
to go through, and astonished them. Sometimes I am 
miserable — always there is in me the sense that I may 
have active cause to be so at any moment — always the 
gnawing pangs of anxiety, and deep, deep dissatisfaction 
beyond words, and the sense of helplessness, which of 
itself is despair. And yet there are times when my heart 
jumps up in the old unreasonable way, and I am, — yes, 
happy — though the word seems so inappropriate — with- 
out any cause for it, with so many causes the other way, 
I wonder whether this is want of feeling, or mere tem- 
perament and elasticity, or if it is a special compensation 
— "Werena my heart licht I wad dee" — Grizel Hume 
must have had the same. 

I have been tempted to begin writing by George Eliot's 
life — with that curious kind of self-compassion which one 
cannot get clear of. I wonder if I am a little envious 
of her? I always avoid considering formally what my 
own mind is worth. I have never had any theory on 
the subject. I have written because it gave me pleasure, 
because it came natural to me, because it was like talking 
or breathing, besides the big fact that it was necessary 
for me to work for my children. That, however, was 
not the first motive, so that when I laugh inquiries 
off and say that it is my trade, I do it only by way 
of eluding the question which I have neither time nor 
wish to enter into. Anthony Trollope's talk about the 
characters in his books astonished me beyond measure, 
and I am totally incapable of talking about anything I 
have ever done in that way. As he was a thoroughly 
sensible genuine man, I suppose he was quite sincere in 
what he says of them, — or was it that he was driven 
into a fashion of self-explanation which belongs to the 
time, and which I am following now though in another 



SCOTCH TRAITS OF CHARACTER. 



5 



way? I feel that my carelessness of asserting my 
claim is very much against me with everybody. It 
is so natural to think that if the workman himself is 
indifferent about his work, there can't be much in it 
that is worth thinking about. I am not indifferent, 
yet I should rather like to forget it all, to wipe out 
all the books, to silence those compliments about my 
industry, &c, which I always turn off with a laugh. 
I suppose this is really pride, with a mixture of Scotch 
shyness, and a good deal of that uncomprehended, 
unexplainable feeling which made Mrs Carlyle reply with 
a jibe, which meant only a whimsical impulse to take the 
side of opposition, and the strong Scotch sense of the 
absurdity of a chorus of praise, but which looks so often 
like detraction and bitterness, and has now definitely 
been accepted as such by the public in general. I don't 
find words to express it adequately, but I feel it strenu- 
ously in my own case. When people comment upon the 
number of books I have written, and I say that I am so 
far from being proud of that fact that I should like at 
least half of them forgotten, they stare — and yet it is 
quite true ; and even here I could no more go solemnly 
into them, and tell why I had done this or that, than I 
could fly. They are my work, which I like in the doing, 
which is my natural way of occupying myself, though they 
are never so good as I meant them to be. And when 
I have said that, I have said all that is in me to say. 

I don't quite know why I should put this all down. I 
suppose because George Eliot's life has, as I said above, 
stirred me up to an involuntary confession. How I have 
been handicapped in life ! Should I have done better it 
I had been kept, like her, in a mental greenhouse and 
taken care of? This is one of the things it is perfectly 
impossible to tell. In all likelihood our minds and our 
circumstances are so arranged that, after all, the possible 
way is the way that is best ; yet it is a little hard some- 
times not to feel with Browning's Andrea, that the men 
who have no wives, who have given themselves up to 
their art, have had an almost unfair advantage over us 



6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



who have been given perhaps more than one Lucrezia to 
take care of. And to feel with him that perhaps in the 
after-life four square walls in the New Jerusalem may be 
given for another trial ! I used to be intensely impressed 
in the Laurence Oliphants with that curious freedom 
from human ties which I have never known; and that 
they felt it possible to make up their minds to do what 
was best, without any sort of arriere pensee, without 
having to consider whether they could or not. Curious 
freedom! I have never known what it was. I have 
always had to think of other people, and to plan every- 
thing — for my own pleasure, it is true, very often, but 
always in subjection to the necessity which bound me to 
them. On the whole, I have had a great deal of my own 
way, and have insisted upon getting what I wished, but 
only at the cost of infinite labour, and of carrying a 
whole little world with me whenever I moved. I have 
not been able to rest, to please myself, to take the 
pleasures that have come in my way, but have always 
been forced to go on without a pause. When my poor 
brother's family fell upon my hands, and especially when 
there was question of Frank's education, I remember that 
I said to myself, having then perhaps a little stirring of 
ambition, that I must make up my mind to think no 
more of that, and that to bring up the boys for the 
service of God was better than to write a fine novel, 
supposing even that it was in me to do so. Alas ! the 
work has been done; the education is over; my good 
Frank, my steady, good boy, is dead. It seemed rather 
a fine thing to make that resolution (though in reality I 
had no choice) ; but now I think that if I had taken the 
other way, which seemed the less noble, it might have 
been better for all of us. I might have done better work. 
I should in all probability have earned nearly as much 
for half the production had I done less; and I might 
have had the satisfaction of knowing that there was 
something laid up for them and for my old age; while 
they might have learned habits of work which now seem 



GEORGE ELIOT. 



7 



beyond recall. Who can tell ? I did with much labour 
what I thought the best, and there is only a might have 
been on the other side. 

In this my resolution which I did make, I was, after 
all, only following my instincts, it being in reality easier 
to me to keep on with a flowing sail, to keep my house- 
hold and make a number of people comfortable, at the 
cost of incessant work, and an occasional great crisis of 
anxiety, than to live the self-restrained life which the 
greater artist imposes upon himself. 

What casuists we are on our own behalf! — this is al- 
together self-defence. And I know I am giving myself 
the air of being au fond a finer sort of character than 
the others. I may as well take the little satisfaction to 
myself, for nobody will give it to me. No one even 
will mention me in the same breath with George Eliot. 
And that is just. It is a little justification to myself 
to think how much better off she was, — no trouble in 
all her life as far as appears, but the natural one of her 
father's death — and perhaps coolnesses with her brothers 
and sisters, though that is not said. And though her 
marriage is not one that most of us would have ven- 
tured on, still it seems to have secured her a wor- 
shipper unrivalled. I think she must have been a dull 
woman with a great genius distinct from herself, some- 
thing like the gift of the old prophets, which they 
sometimes exercised with only a dim sort of perception 
what it meant. But this is a thing to be said only 
with bated breath, and perhaps further thought on the 
subject may change even my mind. She took herself 
with tremendous seriousness, that is evident, and was 
always on duty, never relaxing, her letters ponderous 
beyond description — and those to the Bray party giving 
one the idea of a mutual improvement society for the 
exchange of essays. 

Let me be done with this — I wonder if I will ever have 
time to put a few autobiographical bits down before I 
die. I am in very little danger of having my life written, 



8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



and that is all the better in this point of view — for 
what could be said of me? George Eliot and George 
Sand make me half inclined to cry over my poor little 
unappreciated self — " Many love me (i.e., in a sort of 
way), but by none am I enough beloved." These two 
bigger women did things which I have never felt the least 
temptation to do — but how very much more enjoyment 
they seem to have got out of their life, how much more 
praise and homage and honour ! I would not buy their 
fame with these disadvantages, but I do feel very small, 
very obscure, beside them, rather a failure all round, 
never securing any strong affection, and throughout my 
life, though I have had all the usual experiences of 
woman, never impressing anybody, — what a droll little 
complaint ! — why should I ? I acknowledge frankly that 
there is nothing in me — a fat, little, commonplace woman, 
rather tongue-tied — to impress any one; and yet there 
is a sort of whimsical injury in it which makes me sorry 
for myself. 

Feb. 8th. 

Here, then, for a little try at the autobiography. I 
ought to be doing some work, getting on a little in 
advance for to-morrow, which gives a special zest to 
doing nothing : 1 to doing what has no need to be done — 
and Sunday evenings have always been a time to fantasti- 
care, to do what one pleased ; and I have dropped out of 
the letter I used to do on these occasions, having — which, 
by the way, is a little sad when one comes to think of it 
— no one to write to, of anything that is beneath the 
surface. Curious! I had scarcely realised it before. 
Now for a beginning. 

I remember nothing of Wallyford, where I was born, 
but opened my eyes to life, so far as I remember, in the 
village of Lasswade, where we lived in a little house, I 
think, on the road to Dalkeith. I recollect the wintry 
road ending to my consciousness in a slight ascent with 

1 This is exactly what Sir Walter says in his Diary, only published in 1890, 
so I was like him in this without knowing it. 



EARLY MEMORIES. 



9 



big ash-trees forming a sort of arch ; underneath which I 
fancy was a toll-bar, the way into the world appropriately 
barred by that turnpike. But no, that was not the way 
into the world ; for the world was Edinburgh, the coach 
for which, I am almost sure, went the other way through 
the village and over the bridge to the left hand, starting 
from somewhere close to Mr Todd the baker's shop, of 
which I have a faint and kind recollection. It was by 
that way that Frank came home on Saturday nights to 
spend Sunday at home, walking out from Edinburgh 
(about six miles) to walk in again on Monday in the dark 
winter mornings. I recollect nothing about the summer 
mornings when he set out on that walk, but remember 
vividly like a picture the Monday mornings in winter; 
the fire burning cheerfully and candles on the breakfast- 
table, all dark but with a subtle sense of morning, 
though it seemed a kind of dissipation to be up so long 
before the day. I can see myself, a small creature seated 
on a stool by the fire, toasting a cake of dough which 
was brought for me by the baker with the prematurely 
early rolls, which were for Frank. (This dough was the 
special feature of the morning to me, and I suppose I 
had it only on these occasions.) And my mother, who 
never seemed to sit down in the strange, little, warm, 
bright picture, but to hover about the table pouring out 
tea, supplying everything he wanted to her boy (how 
proud, how fond of him ! — her eyes liquid and bright with 
love as she hovered about); and Frank, the dearest of 
companions so long — then long separated, almost alien- 
ated, brought back again at the end to my care. How 
bright he was then, how good always to me, how fond of 
his little sister! — impatient by moments, good always. 
And he was a kind of god to me — my Frank, as I always 
called him. I remember once weeping bitterly over a 
man singing in the street, a buttoned-up, shabby-genteel 
man, whom, on being questioned why I cried, I ac- 
knowledged I thought like my Frank. That was when 
he was absent, and my mother's anxiety reflected in a 



IO 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



child's mind went, I suppose, the length of fancying that 
Frank too might have to sing in the street. (He would 
have come off very badly in that case, for he did not 
know one tune from another, much less could he sing a 
note !) How well I recollect the appearance of the man 
in his close-buttoned black coat, with his dismal song, 
and the acute anguish of the thought that Frank might 
have come to that for anything I knew. Frank, how- 
ever, never gave very much anxiety ; it was Willie, poor 
Willie, who was our sore and constant trouble — Willie, 
who lives still in Rome, as he has done for the last two- 
or three-and-twenty years— nearly a quarter of a century 
— among strangers who are kind to him, wanting noth- 
ing, I hope, yet also having outlived everything. I 
shrank from going to see him when I was in Italy, which 
was wrong; but how can I return to Rome, and how 
could he have come to me ? — poor Willie ! the hand- 
somest, brightest of us all, with eyes that ran over with 
fun and laughter — and the hair which we used to say he 
had to poll, like Absalom, so many times a-year. Alas ! 

What I recollect in Lasswade besides the Monday 
morning aforesaid is not much. I remember standing 
at the smithy with brother Willie, on some occasion 
when the big boy was very unwillingly charged to take 
his little sister somewhere or other, — standing in the 
dark, wondering at the sparks as they flew up and the 
dark figures of the smith and his men ; and I remember 
playing on the road opposite the house, where there was 
a low wall over which the Esk and the country beyond 
could be seen (I think), playing with two little kittens, 
who were called Lord Brougham and Lord Grey. It 
must have been immediately after the passing of the 
Reform Bill, and I suppose this was why the kittens bore 
such names. We were all tremendously political and 
Radical, my mother especially and Frank. Likewise I 
recollect with the most vivid clearness on what must have 
been a warm still summer day, lying on my back in the 
grass, the little blue speedwells in which are very distinct 



THE OLD TYPE OF SCOTCH MOTHER. 



II 



before me, and looking up into the sky. The depths of 
it, the blueness of it, the way in which it seemed to move 
and fly and avoid the gaze which could not penetrate be- 
yond that profound unfathomable blue, — the bliss of 
lying there doing nothing, trying to look into it, growing 
giddy with the effort, with a sort of vague realisation of 
the soft swaying of the world in space ! I feel the giddi- 
ness in my brain still, and the happiness, as if I had been 
the first discoverer of that wonderful sky. All my little 
recollections are like pictures to which the meaning, 
naturally, is put long afterwards. I did not know the 
world moved or anything about it, being under six at 
most; but I can feel the sensation of the small head 
trying to fix that great universe, and in the effort growing 
dizzy and going round. 

We left Lasswade when I was six, my father's busi- 
ness taking him to Glasgow, to the misery of my 
mother, who was leaving her boys behind her. My 
father is a very dim figure in all that phantasmagoria. 
I had to be very quiet in the evenings when he was at 
home, not to disturb him; and he took no particular 
notice of me or of any of us. My mother was all in all. 
How she kept everything going, and comfortably going, 
on the small income she had to administer, I can't tell ; 
it seems like a miracle, though of course we lived in the 
utmost obscurity and simplicity, she herself doing the 
great part of all that was done in the house. I was the 
child of her age — not her old age, but the sentiment was 
the same. She had lost three children one after another 
— one a girl about whom I used to make all sorts of 
dream-romances, to the purport that Isabella had never 
died at all, and was brought back in this or that mirac- 
ulous way to make my mother and myself supremely 
happy. I was born after that period of misery, and 
brought back life to my mother's heart. She was of the 
old type of Scotch mothers, not demonstrative, not 
caressing, but I know now that I was a kind of idol to 



12 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



her from my birth. My clothes were all made by her 
tender hands, finer and more beautifully worked than 
ever child's clothes were ; my under garments fine linen 
and trimmed with little delicate laces, to the end that 
there might be nothing coarse, nothing less than ex- 
quisite, about me ; that I might grow up with all Xhe deli- 
cacies of a woman's ideal child. 

But she was very quick in temper notwithstanding 
this, and was very far from spoiling me. I was not 
petted nor called by sweet names. But I know now that 
my mere name meant everything to her. I was her 
Maggie — what more could mortal speech find to say? 
How little one realises the character or individuality of 
those who are most near and dear. It is with difficulty 
even now that I can analyse or make a character of her. 
She herself is there, not any type or variety of human- 
kind. She was taller than I am, not so stout as I 
have grown. She had a sweet fresh complexion, and a 
cheek so soft that I can feel the sensation of putting mine 
against it still, and beautiful liquid brown eyes, full of 
light and fun and sorrow and anger, flashing and melting, 
terrible to look at sometimes when one was in disgrace. 
Her teeth projected, when she had teeth, but she lost 
and never replaced them, which did not, I think, harm 
her looks very much — at least, not in my consciousness. 
I am obliged to confess that when I remember her first 
she wore a brown front ! according to the fashion of the 
time — which fashion she detested, and suddenly aban- 
doning it one day, appeared with the most lovely white 
hair, which gave a charm of harmonious colour to her 
beautiful complexion and brown eyes and eyebrows, but 
which was looked upon with consternation by her con- 
temporaries, who thought the change wickedness. She 
had grown very early grey like myself, but was at this 
period, I should think, about forty-five. She wore al- 
ways a cap with white net quilled closely round her face, 
and tied under her chin with white ribbons; and in 
winter always a white shawl ; her dress cut not quite to 



A DANGEROUS FACILITY. 



13 



her throat, and a very ample white net or cambric hand- 
kerchief showing underneath. She had read everything 
she could lay hands upon all her life, and was fond of 
quoting Pope, so that we used to call her Popish in after- 
days when I knew what Popish in this sense meant. 

She had entered into everything that was passing all 
her life with the warmest energy and animation, as was 
her nature ; was Radical and democratic and the highest 
of aristocrats all in one. She had a very high idea, 
founded on I have never quite known what, of the 
importance of the Oliphant family, so that I was 
brought up with the sense of belonging (by her side) 
to an old, chivalrous, impoverished race. I have never 
got rid of the prejudice, though I don't think our 
branch of the Oliphants was much to brag of. I would 
not, however, do anything to dispel the delusion, if it 
is one, for my mother's sake, who held it stoutly and 
without a doubt. Her father had been a prodigal, and 
I fear a profligate, whose wife had not been able to 
bear with him (my mother would have borne anything 
and everything for her children's sake, to keep their 
home intact), and her youth had been a troubled and 
partially dependent one, — dependent upon relations on 
the one side, whom it was a relief, I suppose, to the 
high-spirited girl to think as much inferior in race as 
they were in the generosity and princeliness of nature 
which was hers. So far as that went she might have 
been a queen. 

I understand the Carlyles, both he and she, by 
means of my mother as few people appear able to do. 
She had Mrs Carlyle's wonderful gift of narrative, and 
she possessed in perfection that dangerous facility of 
sarcasm and stinging speech which Sir Walter attrib- 
utes to Queen Mary. Though her kindness was inex- 
haustible and her love boundless, yet she could drive 
her opponent of the moment half frantic with half-a- 
dozen words, and cut to the quick with a flying phrase. 
On the other side, there was absolutely nothing that 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



she would not have done or endured for her own; 
and no appeal to her generosity was ever made in vain. 
She was a poor woman all her life, but her instinct 
was always to give. And she would have kept open 
house if she could have had her way, on heaven knows 
how little a-year. My father was in one way very differ- 
ent. He hated strangers; guests at his table were a 
bore to him. In his later days he would have nobody 
invited, or if guests came, retired and would not see 
them, — but he was not illiberal. 

We lived for a long time in Liverpool, where my 
father had an office in the Custom - house. I don't 
know exactly what, except that he took affidavits — which 
was a joke in the house — having a special commission 
for that purpose. We lived for some time in the North 
End (no doubt a great deal changed now, and I have 
known nothing about it for thirty years and more), 
where there was a Scotch church, chiefly for the use 
of the engineers and their families who worked in the 
great foundries. One of the first things I remember 
here was great distress among the people, on what 
account I cannot tell — I must have been a girl of 
thirteen or so, I think. A fund was raised for their 
relief, of which my father was treasurer, and both my 
brothers were drawn in to help. This was very mo- 
mentous in our family, from the fact that it was the 
means of bringing Frank, up to this time everything 
that was good except in respect to the Church, to that 
last and crowning excellence. He got interested about 
the poor, and began to come with us to church, and 
filled my mother's cup with happiness. Willie, always 
careless, always kind, ready to do anything for any- 
body, but who had already come by some defeat in 
life which I did not understand, and who was at home 
idle, took the charge of administering this charity, and 
used to go about the poor streets with a cart of coal 
behind him and his pockets stuffed with orders for 
bread and provisions of all kinds. All this I remem- 



AFFAIRES DE CCEUR. 



IS 



ber, I think, more through my mother's keen half 
anguish of happiness and pride than through my own 
recollection. That he had done so poorly for himself 
was bitter, but that he did so well for the poor was 
sweet ; oh ! and such a vindication of the bright-eyed, 
sweet-tempered unfortunate, who never was anybody's 
enemy but his own — words which were more true in 
his case than in most others. And then Frank was 
busy in the good work too, and at last a member of 
the Church, and all well. This is not to say that 
there were not domestic gusts at times. 

When I was sixteen I began to have — what shall I 
say ? — not lovers exactly, except in the singular — but one 
or two people about who revealed to me the fact that I 
too was like the girls in the poets. I recollect distinctly 
the first compliment, though not a compliment in the 
ordinary sense of the word, which gave me that bewilder- 
ing happy sense of being able to touch somebody else's 
heart — which was half fun and infinitely amusing, yet 
something more. The speaker was a young Irishman, 
one of the young ministers that came to our little church, 
at that time vacant. He had joined Frank and me on a 
walk, and when we were passing and looking at a very 
pretty cottage on the slope of the hill at Everton, 
embowered in gardens and shrubberies, he suddenly 
looked at me and said, " It would be Elysium." I 
laughed till I cried at this speech afterwards, though at 
the moment demure and startled. But the little incident 
remains to me, as so many scenes in my early life do, 
like a picture suffused with a soft delightful light: the 
glow in the young man's eyes; the lowered tone and 
little speech aside ; the soft thrill of meaning which was 
nothing and yet much. Perhaps if I were not a novelist 
addicted to describing such scenes, I might not remember 
it after — how long? Forty -one years. What a long 
time! I could not have been sixteen. Then came the 
episode of J. Y., which was very serious indeed. We 
were engaged on the eve of his going away. He was to 



i6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



go to America for three years and then return for me. 
He was a good, simple, pious, domestic, kind-hearted 
fellow, fair-haired, not good-looking, not ideal at all. He 
cannot have been at all clever, and I was rather. When 
he went away our correspondence for some time was very 
full ; then I began to find his letters silly, and I suppose 
said as much. Then there were quarrels, quarrels with 
the Atlantic between, then explanations, and then dread- 
ful silence. It is amusing to look back upon, but it was 
not at all amusing to me then. My poor little heart was 
broken. I remember another scene without being able 
to explain it : my mother and myself walking home from 
somewhere — I don't know where — after it was certain 
that there was no letter, and that all was over. I think 
it was a winter night and rainy, and I was leaning on 
her arm, and the blank of the silence, and the dark and 
the separation, and the cutting off of all the dreams that 
had grown about his name, came over me and seemed to 
stop my very life. My poor little heart was broken. I 
was just over seventeen, I think. 

These were the only breaks in my early life. We lived 
in the most singularly secluded way. I never was at a 
dance till after my marriage, never went out, never saw 
anybody at home. Our pleasures were books of all and 
every kind, newspapers and magazines, which formed 
the staple of our conversation, as well as all .our amuse- 
ment. In the time of my depression and sadness my 
mother had a bad illness, and I was her nurse, or at least 
attendant. I had to sit for hours by her bedside and 
keep quiet. I had no liking then for needlework, a taste 
which developed afterwards, so I took to writing. There 
was no particular purpose in my beginning except this, 
to secure some amusement and occupation for myself 
while I sat by my mother's bedside. I wrote a little book 
in which the chief character was an angelic elder sister, 
unmarried, who had the charge of a family of motherless 
brothers and sisters, and who had a shrine of sorrow in 
her life in the shape of the portrait and memory of her 



FIRST LITERARY EFFORTS. 



17 



lover who had died young. It was all very innocent and 
guileless, and my audience — to wit, my mother and 
brother Frank — were highly pleased with it. (It was 
published long after by W. on his own account, and very 
silly I think it is, poor little thing.) I think I was then 
about sixteen. Afterwards I wrote another very much 
concerned with the Church business, in which the 
heroine, I recollect, was a girl, who in the beginning of 
the story was a sort of half-witted undeveloped creature, 
but who ended by being one of those lofty poetical 
beings whom girls love. She was called, I recollect, 
Ibby, but why, I cannot explain. I had the satisfaction 
afterwards, when I came to my full growth, of burning 
the manuscript, which was a three-volume business. I 
don't think any effort was ever made to get a publisher 
for it. 

We were living at the time in Liverpool, either in a 
house in Great Homer Street or in Juvenal Street — very 
classical in point of name but in nothing else. Probably 
neither of these places exists any longer — very good 
houses though, at least the last. I have lately described 
in a letter in the ' St James' Gazette ' a curious experi- 
ence of mine as a child while living in one of these 
places. It was in the time of the Anti-Corn Law agita- 
tion, and I was about fourteen. There was a great deal 
of talk in the papers, which were full of that agitation, 
about a petition from women to Parliament upon that 
subject, with instructions to get sheets ruled for signa- 
tures, and an appeal to ladies to help in procuring them. 
It was just after or about the time of our great charity, 
and I was in the way of going thus from house to house. 
Accordingly I got a number of these sheets, or probably 
Frank got them for me, and set to work. Another girl 
went with me, I believe, but I forget who she was. The 
town was all portioned out into districts under the charge 
of ladies appointed by the committee, but we flung our- 
selves upon a street, no matter where, and got our papers 
filled and put all the authorised agents comically out. 

B 



i8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



Nobody could discover who we were. I took my sheets 
to the meeting of the ladies, and was much wondered 
at, being to the external eye a child, though to my own 
consciousness quite a grown-up person. The secretary 
of the association or committee, or whatever it was, 
was, I think, a Miss Hayward ; at all events her Chris- 
tian name was Lawrencina, which she wrote L'cina. 
I admired her greatly, and admired her pretty hand- 
writing and everything about her. I myself wrote 
abominably, resisting up to this time all efforts to 
teach me better; but the circulars and notes with 
Miss L'cina's pretty name developed in me a warm 
ambition. I began to copy her writing, and mended 
in my own from that day. It did not come to very 
much, the printers would say. 

I was a tremendous politician in those days. 

I forget when it was that we moved to Birkenhead 
— not, I think, till after the extraordinary epoch of the 
publication of my first book. From the time above 
spoken of I went on writing, and somehow, I don't 
remember how, got into the history of Mrs Margaret 
Maitland. There had been some sketches from life in the 
story which, as I have said, I burned ; but that was pure 
imagination. A slight reflection of my own childhood 
perhaps was in the child Grace, a broken bit of reflection 
here and there from my mother in the picture of Mrs 
Margaret. Willie, after many failures and after a long 
illness, which we were in hopes had purified him from 
all his defects, had gone to London to go through some 
studies at the London University and in the College 
called the English Presbyterian, to which in our warm 
Free Churchism we had attached ourselves. He took 
my MS. to Colburn, then one of the chief publishers 
of novels, and for some weeks nothing was heard of it, 
when one morning came a big blue envelope containing 
an agreement by which Mr Colburn pledged himself to 
publish my book on the half-profit system, accompanied 
by a letter from a Mr S. W. Fullom, full of compliments 



'MRS MARGARET MAITLAND.' 



19 



as to its originality, &c. I have forgotten the terms now, 
but then I knew them by heart. The delight, the 
astonishment, the amusement of this was not to be 
described. First and foremost, it was the most extra- 
ordinary joke that ever was. Maggie's story! My 
mother laughed and cried with pride and happiness 
and amazement unbounded. She thought Mr S. W. 
Fullom a great authority and a man of genius, and 
augured the greatest advantage to me from his acquaint- 
ance and that of all the great literary persons about 
him. This wonderful event must have come most 
fortunately to comfort the family under new trouble; 
for things had again gone wrong with poor Willie — he 
had fallen once more into his old vice and debt and 
misery. He had still another term in London before 
he finished the course of study he was engaged in; 
and when the time came for his return I was sent with 
him to take care of him. It was almost the first time 
I had ever been separated from my mother. One visit 
of two or three weeks to the Hasties of Fairy Knowe, 
which had its part too in my little development, had 
been my only absence from home ; and how my mother 
made up her mind to this three months' parting I do 
not know, but for poor Willie's sake everything was 
possible. We had lodgings near Burton Crescent in a 
street where our cousins, Frank and Tom Oliphant, were 
in the same house. We had the parlour, I remember, 
where I sat in the mornings when Willie was at his 
lectures. Afterwards he came in and I went out with 
him to walk. We used to walk through all the curious 
little passages leading, I believe, to Holborn, and full of 
old bookshops, which were our delight. And he took 
me to see the parks and various places — though not those 
to which I should suppose a girl from the country would 
be taken. The bookshops are the things I remember 
best. He was as good as he could be, docile and sweet- 
tempered and never rebellious ; and I was a little dragon 
watching over him with remorseless anxiety. I dis- 



20 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



covered, I remember, a trifling bill which had not been 
included when his debts were paid, and I took my small 
fierce measures that it should never reach my mother's 
ears, nor trouble her. I ordained that for two days in 
the week we should give up our mid-day meal and make 
up at the evening one, which we called supper, for the 
want of it. On these days, accordingly, he did not come 
home, or came only to fetch me, and we went out for 
a long walk, sustaining ourselves with a bun until it 
should be time to come home to tea. He agreed to this 
ordinance without a murmur — my poor, good, tender- 
hearted, simple-minded Willie; and the little bill was 
paid and never known of at home. 

Curiously enough, I remember little of the London 
sights or of any impression they made upon me. We 
knew scarcely anybody. Mrs Hamilton, the sister of 
Edward living's wife and a relation, took some notice 
of us, but she was almost the only individual I knew. 
And my heart was too full of my charge to think much 
of the cousin up -stairs with whom my fate was soon 
to be connected. We had known scarcely anything of 
each other before. We were new acquaintances, though 
relations. He took me, I remember, to the National 
Gallery, full of expectation as to the effect the pictures 
would have upon me. And I — was struck dumb with 
disappointment. I had never seen any pictures. I 
can't tell what I expected to see — something that never 
was on sea or shore. My ideal of absolute ignorance 
was far too high-flown, I suppose, for anything human. 
I was horribly disappointed, and dropped down from 
untold heights of imagination to a reality I could not 
understand. I remember, in the humiliation of my 
downfall, and in the sense of my cousin's astonished 
disappointment at my want of appreciation, fixing upon 
a painting — a figure of the Virgin in a Crucifixion, I 
think by Correggio, but I am quite vague about it — 
as the thing I liked best. I chose that as Words- 
worth's little boy put forth the weathercock at Kilve 



A GREAT DISILLUSIONMENT. 



21 



— in despair at my own incapacity to admire. I re- 
member also the heads of the old Jews in Leonardo's 
Christ in the Temple. The face of the young Re- 
deemer with its elaborate crisped hair shocked me with 
a sense of profanity, but the old heads I could believe 
in. And that was all I got out of my first glimpse 
into the world of art. I cannot recollect whether it 
was then or after, that an equally great disillusionment 
in the theatre befell me. The play was " Twelfth 
Night," and the lovely beginning of that play — 

" That strain again ! it had a dying fall " 

— was given by a nobody in white tights lying on a 
sofa and balancing a long leg as he spoke. The dis- 
gust, the disenchantment, the fury remain in my mind 
now. Once more I came tumbling down from my ideal 
and all my anticipations. Mrs Charles Kean was Viola, 
and she was middle - aged and stout ! 1 I was more 
than disappointed, I was angry and disgusted and 
cast down. What was the good of anything if that 
was all that Shakespeare and the great Masters could 
come to? 

I remember after this a day at Greenwich and Wool- 
wich, and the sight of the Arsenal, though why that 
should have made an impression on my memory, heaven 
knows! I remember the pyramids of balls, and some 
convicts whose appearance gave me a thrill of horror, 
— I think they were convicts, though why convicts 
should be at Woolwich I can't tell — perhaps it was 
a mistake. And then Mr Colburn kindly — I thought 
most kindly, and thanked him avec effusion — gave me 
£150 for ' Margaret Maitland.' I remember walking 
along the street with delightful elation, thinking that, 
after all, I was worth something — and not to be hustled 
about. I remember, too, getting the first review ot 
my book in the twilight of a wintry dark afternoon, 
and reading it by the firelight — always half-amused at 

1 Probably under thirty.— Ed. 



22 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



the thought, that it was me who was being thus dis- 
cussed in the newspapers. It was the ' Athenaeum,' 
and it was on the whole favourable. Of course this 
event preceded by a couple of months the transaction 
with Mr Colburn. I think the book was in its third 
edition before he offered me that £150. I remember 
no reviews except that one of the ' Athenaeum,' nor 
any particular effect which my success produced in me, 
except that sense of elation. I cannot think why the 
book succeeded so well. When I read it over some 
years after, I felt nothing but shame at its foolish little 
polemics and opinions. I suppose there must have been 
some breath of youth and sincerity in it which touched 
people, and there had been no Scotch stories for a 
long time. Lord Jeffrey, then an old man and very 
near his end, sent me a letter of sweet praise, which 
filled my mother with rapture and myself with an 
abashed gratitude. I was very young. Oddly enough, 
it has always remained a matter of doubt with me 
whether the book was published in 1849 or 1850. I 
thought the former; but Geraldine Macpherson, whom 
I met in London for the first time a day or two before 
it was published, declared it to be 1850, from the fact 
that that was the year of her marriage. If a woman 
remembers any date, it must be the date of her mar- 
riage! 1 so I don't doubt Geddie was right. Anyhow, 
if it was 1850, I was then only twenty -two, and in 
some things very young for my age, as in others per- 
haps older than my years. I was wonderfully little 
moved by the business altogether. I had a great 
pleasure in writing, but the success and the three edi- 
tions had no particular effect upon my mind. For 
one thing, I saw very few people. We had no society. 
My father had a horror of strangers, and would never 
see any one who came to the house, which was a con- 
tinual wet blanket to my mother's cordial, hospitable 
nature; but she had given up struggling long before 

1 It was 1849.— Ed. 



'CALEB FIELD.' 



23 



my time, and I grew up without any idea of the 
pleasures and companions of youth. I did not know 
them, and therefore did not miss them; but I daresay 
this helped to make me — not indifferent, rather uncon- 
scious, of what might in other circumstances have 
" turned my head." My head was as steady as a rock. 
I had nobody to praise me except my mother and 
Frank, and their applause — well, it was delightful, it 
was everything in the world — it was life, — but it did 
not count. They were part of me, and I of them, 
and we were all in it. After a while it came to be 
the custom that I should every night " read what I 
had written" to them before I went to bed. They 
were very critical sometimes, and I felt while I was 
reading whether my little audience was with me or 
not, which put a good deal of excitement into the 
performance. But that was all the excitement I had. 

I began, another book called ' Caleb Field,' about the 
Plague in London, the very night I had finished ' Mar- 
garet Maitland.' I had been reading Defoe, and got 
the subject into my head. It came to one volume only, 
and I took a great deal of trouble about a Noncon- 
formist minister who spoke in antitheses very carefully 
constructed. I don't think it attracted much notice, 
but I don't remember. Other matters, events even of 
our uneventful life, took so much more importance in 
life than these books — nay, it must be a kind of affec- 
tation to say that, for the writing ran through every- 
thing. But then it was also subordinate to everything, 
to be pushed aside for any little necessity. I had no 
table even to myself, much less a room to work in, 
but sat at the corner of the family table with my writ- 
ing-book, with everything going on as if I had been 
making a shirt instead of writing a book. Our rooms 
in those days were sadly wanting in artistic arrange- 
ment. The table was in the middle of the room, the 
centre round which everybody sat with the candles or 
lamp upon it. My mother sat always at needle-work 



24 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



of some kind, and talked to whoever might be present, 
and I took my share in the conversation, going on all 
the same with my story, the little groups of imaginary 
persons, these other talks evolving themselves quite un- 
disturbed. It would put me out now to have some one 
sitting at the same table talking while I worked — at least 
I would think it put me out, with that sort of conven- 
tionalism which grows upon one. But up to this date, 
1888, I have never been shut up in a separate room, or 
hedged off with any observances. My study, all the 
study I have ever attained to, is the little second draw- 
ing-room where all the (feminine) life of the house goes 
on; and I don't think I have ever had two hours un- 
disturbed (except at night, when everybody is in bed) 
during my whole literary life. Miss Austen, I believe, 
wrote in the same way, and very much for the same 
reason ; but at her period the natural flow of life took 
another form. The family were half ashamed to have 
it known that she was not just a young lady like the 
others, doing her embroidery. Mine were quite pleased 
to magnify me, and to be proud of my work, but always 
with a hidden sense that it was an admirable joke, and 
no idea that any special facilities or retirement was 
necessary. My mother, I believe, would have felt her 
pride and rapture much checked, almost humiliated, if 
she had conceived that I stood in need of any artificial 
aids of that or any other description. That would at 
once have made the work unnatural to her eyes, and 
also to mine. I think the first time I ever secluded my* 
self for my work was years after it had become my 
profession and sole dependence — when I was living after 
my widowhood in a relation's house, and withdrew with 
my book and my inkstand from the family drawing- 
room out of a little conscious ill-temper which made me 
feel guilty, notwithstanding that the retirement was so 
very justifiable ! But I did not feel it to be so, neither 
did the companions from whom I withdrew. 
After this period our poor Willie became a minister 



A NORTHUMBRIAN VILLAGE. 



25 



of the English Presbyterian Church, then invested 
with glory by the Free Church, its real parent, which 
in our fervid imagination we had by this time dressed 
up with all sorts of traditional splendour. It, we 
flattered ourselves, was the direct successor of the 
two thousand seceders of 1661 (was that the date?). 
There had been a downfall, we allowed, into Uni- 
tarianism and indifference; but this was the real, and 
a very respectable, tradition. Willie went to a very 
curious little place in the wilds of Northumberland, 
where my mother and I decided — with hopes strangely 
wild, it seems to me now, after all that had gone 
before — that he was at length to do well, and be as 
strenuous to his duty as he was gentle in temper 
and tender in heart. Poor Willie! It was a sort of 
show village with pretty flowery cottages and gardens, 
in a superior one of which he lived, or rather lodged, 
the income being very small and the position humble. 
It was, however, so far as my recollection goes, suffi- 
ciently like a Scotch parish to convince us that the 
church and parsonage were quite exotic, and the 
humble chapel the real religious centre of the place. 
A great number of the people were, I believe, Presby- 
terians, and the continuance of their worship and little 
strait ceremony undoubted from the time of the Puri- 
tans, though curiously enough the minister was known 
to his flock by the title of the priest. I don't in the 
least recollect what the place was like, yet a whiff of 
the rural air tinged with peat or wood, and of the 
roses with which the cottages were garlanded, and an 
impression of the subdued light through the green- 
ish small window half veiled in flowers, remains with 
me, — very sweet, homely, idyllic, like something in a 
pathetic country story of peace overshadowed with 
coming trouble. There was a shadow of a ruined castle 
in the background, I think Norham; but all is vague, 
— I have not the clear memory of what I saw in my 
youth that many people retain. I see a little collec- 



26 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



tion of pictures, but the background is all vague. The 
only vehicle we could get to take us to Berwick was, 
I recollect, a cart, carefully arranged with straw- 
covered sacking to make us comfortable. The man 
who drove it was very anxious to be engaged and 
taken with us as " Miss Wilson's coachman." Why 
mine, or why we should have taken a rustic "Jockey- 
to-the-fair " for a coachman, if we had wanted such 
an article, I don't know. I suppose there must have 
been some sort of compliment implied to my beaux 
yeux, or I should not have remembered this. We left 
Willie with thankful hearts, yet an ache of fear. 
Surely in that peaceful humble quiet, with those lowly 
sacred duties and all his goodness and kindness, he 
would do well ! I don't remember how long it con- 
tinued. So long as he kept up the closest correspon- 
dence, writing every second day and giving a full 
account of himself, there was an uneasy satisfaction at 
home. But there is always a prophetic ache in the 
heart when such calamity is on the way. 

One day, without warning, except that his letters 
had begun' to fail a little, my mother received an 
anonymous letter about him. She went off that even- 
ing, travelling all night to Edinburgh, which was the 
quickest way, and then to Berwick. She was very 
little used to travelling, and she was over sixty, which 
looked a great age then. I suppose the trains were 
slower in those days, for I know she got to Edinburgh 
only in the morning, and then had to go on by the 
other line to Berwick, and then drive six miles to the 
village, where she found all the evil auguries fulfilled, 
and poor Willie fallen again helpless into that Slough 
of Despond. She remained a few miserable days, and 
then brought him back with her, finally defeated in 
the battle which he was quite unfit to wage. He must 
have been then, I think, about thirty - three, in the 
prime of strength and youth; but except for a waver- 
ing and uncertain interval now and then, he never got 



A SORROWFUL HOME-COMING. 



27 



out of the mire nor was able to support himself again. 
I remember the horrible moment of his coming home. 
Frank and I went down, I suppose, to the ferry at 
Birkenhead to meet the travellers. We were all very 
grave — not a word of reproach did any one say, but to 
be cheerful, to talk about nothing, was impossible. 
We drove up in silence to the house where we lived, 
asking a faint question now and then about the 
journey. I remember that Willie had a little dog 
called Brownie with him, and the relief this creature 
was, which did not understand being shut up in the 
carriage and made little jumps at the window, and 
had to be petted and restrained. Brownie brought a 
little movement, an involuntary laugh at his antics, to 
break the horrible silence — an angel could scarcely 
have done more for us. When we got home there 
was the settling down in idleness, the hopeless de- 
cision of any wretched possibility there might be for 
him. The days and weeks and months in which he 
smoked and read old novels and the papers, and, most 
horrible of all, got to content himself with that life! 
The anguish in all our hearts looking at him, not 
knowing what to do, sometimes assailed by gusts of 
impatience, always closing down in the hopelessness of 
it; the incapacity to find or suggest anything, the 
dreary spectacle of that content is before me, with 
almost as keen a sense of the misery as if it had been 
yesterday. 

I had been in the habit of copying out carefully, quite 
proud of my neat MS., all my books, now becoming a 
recognised feature of the family life. It struck us all as 
a fine idea that Willie might copy them for me, and 
retrieve a sort of fictitious independence by getting 10 
per cent upon the price of them ; and I really think he 
felt quite comfortable on this. Of course, the sole use 
of the copying was the little corrections and improve- 
ments I made in going over my work again. 

It was after this that my cousin Frank came upon a 



28 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



visit. We had seen, and yet had not seen, a great deal 
of each other in London during the three months I had 
spent there with Willie; but my mind had been pre- 
occupied with Willie chiefly, and a little with my book. 
When Frank made me the extraordinary proposal for 
which I was totally unprepared, that we should, as he 
said, build up the old Drumthwacket together, my only 
answer was an alarmed negative, the idea never having 
entered my mind. But in six months or so things 
changed. It is not a matter into which I can enter 
here. 

In the spring of 1851 my mother and I were in 
Edinburgh, and there made the acquaintance of the 
Wilsons, our second cousins, — George Wilson being at 
that time Professor of something which meant chemistry, 
but was not called so. His mother was an exceedingly 
bright, vivacious old lady, a universal devourer of books, 
and with that kind of scientific tendency which made her 
encourage her boys to form museums, and collect fossils, 
butterflies, &c. I forget how my mother and she got on, 
but I always liked her. 

George Wilson was an excellent talker, full of banter 
and a kind of humour, full of ability, too, I believe, 
writing very amusing letters and talking very amusing 
talk, which was all the more credit to him as he was in 
very bad health, kept alive by the fact that he could 
eat, and so maintain a modicum of strength — enough 
to get on by. There were two daughters — Jessie and 
Jeanie — the younger of whom became my brother 
Frank's wife; and the eldest son, who was married, 
lived close by, and was then, I think, doing literary 
work for Messrs Nelson, reading for them and advising 
them about books. He very soon after this migrated 
to Canada, and became eventually President of Uni- 
versity College, Toronto, and Sir Daniel in the end of 
his life. 

My mother at this time renewed acquaintance with 
Dr Moir of Musselburgh, an old friend of hers, who had, 



A BLACKWOOD GROUP. 



29 



I believe, attended me when, as a very small child, I fell 
into the fire, or rather against the bars of the grate, 
marking my arm in a way which it never recovered. 
This excellent man, whom everybody loved, was the 
Delta of ' Blackwood's Magazine,' and called everywhere 
by that name. He had written much gentle poetry, and 
one story a la Gait called ' Mansie Wauch,' neither of 
which were good enough for him, yet got him a certain 
reputation, especially some pathetic verses about children 
he had lost, which went to the heart of every mother who 
had lost children, my own mother first and foremost. 
He had married a very handsome stately lady, a little 
conventional, but with an unfailing and ready kindness 
which often made her mannerisms quite gracious and 
beautiful. There was already a handsome daughter 
married, though under twenty, and many other fine, tall, 
well-bred, handsome creatures, still in long hair and short 
skirts, growing up. I think I was left behind to pay a 
visit when my mother returned home, and then had a 
kind of introduction to Edinburgh literary society, in one 
case very important for myself. For in one expedition 
we made, Major Blackwood, one of the publishing firm, 
and brother of the editor of the ' Magazine/ was of the 
party; and my long connection with his family thus 
began. He was accompanied by a young man, a Mr 
Cupples, of whom, except his name, I have no recollec- 
tion, but who was the author of a sea-story then, I think, 
going on in 1 Blackwood,' called the ' Green Hand,' and 
who, it was hoped, would be as successful as the author 
of ' Tom Cringle ' and the 4 Cruise of the Midge,' who had 
been a very effective contributor twenty years before. 
All I remember of him was that my cousin Daniel 
Wilson, who was also of the party, indignantly pointed 
out to me the airs which this young author gave himself, 
"as if it was such a great thing to be a contributor to 
• Blackwood ' ! " I am afraid I thought it was a great 
thing, and had not remarked the young author's airs; 
but Daniel was of the opposite camp. Major Blackwood, 



30 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



who interested me most, was a mild soldierly man, 
with the gentlest manners and drooping eyelids, which 
softened his look, or so at least it appears to me at the 
end of so many years. 

I remember that one of the places we visited was 
Wallyford, where was the house in which I was born, 
but of which I had no recollection. It must have been a 
pleasant homely house, with a projecting half turret enclos- 
ing the staircase, as in many houses in the Lothians, the 
passages and kitchen down-stairs floored with red brick, 
and a delightful large low drawing-room above, with five 
greenish windows looking out upon Arthur's Seat in 
the distance, and a ghost of Edinburgh. 1 That room 
charmed me greatly, and in after days I used to think 
of becoming its tenant and living there, for the sake of 
the landscape and the associations and that pretty old 
room; but before I could have carried out such an 
idea, even had it been more real than a fancy, the 
pretty house was pulled down, and a square, aggres- 
sive, and very commonplace new farmhouse built in its 
place. 

The consequence of my introduction to Major Black- 
wood was, that some time in the course of the following 
months I sent him the manuscript of my story ' Katie 
Stewart ' : a little romance of my mother's family, 
gleaned from her recollections and descriptions. The 
scene of this story was chiefly laid in old Kellie Castle, 
which I was not then aware was the home of our own 
ancestors, from whom it had passed long before into the 
hands of the Erskines, Earls of Kellie — with the daughter 
of which house Katie Stewart had been brought up. 
She was my mother's great -aunt, and had lived to a 
great age. She had seen Prince Charlie enter Edin- 
burgh, and had told all her experiences to my mother, who 
told them to me, so that I never was quite sure whether 
I had not been Katie Stewart's contemporary in my own 

1 This house is the scene of the story of • Isabel Dysart,' reprinted since Mrs 
Oliphant's death.— Ed. 



MARRIAGE. 



31 



person. And this was her love-tale. I received proofs 
of this story on the morning of my wedding-day, and 
thus my connection with the firm of Blackwood began. 
They were fond of nicknames, and I was known among 
them by the name of " Katie " for a long time, as I 
discovered lately (1896) in some old letters. I suppose 
they thought me so young and simple (as they say in 
these letters) that the girl's name was appropriate to me. 
I was not tall ("middle height" we called it in those 
days), and very inexperienced, — " so simple and yet self- 
possessed," I am glad to say Major Blackwood reports 
of me. I was only conscious of being dreadfully shy. 

We were married in Birkenhead on the 4th May 1852, 
— and the old home, which had come to consist of 
such incongruous elements, was more or less broken up. 
My brother Frank, discontented and wounded partly 
by my marriage, partly by the determination to abandon 
him and follow me to London, which my father and 
mother had formed, married too, hastily, but very suc- 
cessfully in a way as it turned out, and so two new 
houses were formed out of the partial ruins of the old. 
Had the circumstances been different — had they stayed 
in Birkenhead and I gone alone with my husband to 
London — some unhappiness might have been spared. 
Who can tell ? There would have been other unhappiness 
to take its place. They settled in a quaint little house in 
a place called Park Village, old-fashioned, semi -rustic, 
and pretty enough, with a long strip of garden stretching 
down to the edge of a deep cutting of the railway, where 
we used to watch the trains passing far below. The 
garden was gay with flowers, quantities of brilliant 
poppies of all colours I remember, which I liked for the 
colour and hated for the heavy ill odour of them, and 
the sensation as of evil flowers. Our house in Harring- 
ton Square was very near: it looked all happy enough 
but was not, for my husband and my mother did not 
get on. My father sat passive, taking no notice, with 
his paper, not perceiving much, I believe. 



32 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



My child's birth made a momentary gleam of joy soon 
lost in clouds. 

My mother became ailing and concealed it, and kept 
alive — or at least kept her last illness off by sheer stress 
of will until my second child was born a year and a day 
after the first. She was with me, but sank next day 
into an illness from which she never rose. She died 
in September 1854, suffering no attendance but mine, 
though she concealed from me how ill she was for a 
long time. I remember the first moment in which I 
had any real fear, speaking to the doctor with a sudden 
impulse, in the front of her door, all in a green shade 
with the waving trees, demanding his real opinion. I 
do not think I had any understanding of the gravity of 
the circumstances. He shook his head, and I knew — 
the idea having never entered my mind before that she 
was to die. I recollect going away, walking home as 
in a dream, not able to go to her, to look at her, from 
whom I had never had a secret, with this secret in my 
soul that must be told least of all to her; and the 
sensation that here was something which would not 
lighten after a while as all my troubles had always done, 
and pass away. I had never come face to face with the 
inevitable before. But there was no daylight here — no 
hope — no getting over it. Then there followed a struggle 
of a month or two, much suffering on her part, and a 
long troubled watch and nursing on mine. At the very 
end I remember the struggle against overwhelming sleep, 
after nights and days in incessant anxiety, which made 
me so bitterly ashamed of the limits of wretched nature. 
To want to sleep while she was dying seemed so un- 
natural and horrible. I never had come within sight of 
death before. And, oh me ! when all was over, mingled 
with my grief there was — how can I say it ? — something 
like a dreadful relief. 

Within a few months after, my little Maijorie, my 
second child, died on the 8th February; and then with 
deep shame and anguish I felt what I suppose was 



MORE DISILLUSIONMENT. 



33 



another wretched limit of nature. My dearest mother, 
who had been everything to me all my life, and to whom 
I was everything ; the companion, friend, counsellor, 
minstrel, story-teller, with whom I had never wanted 
for constant interest, entertainment, and fellowship, — 
did not give me, when she died, a pang so deep as the 
loss of the little helpless baby, eight months old. I miss 
my mother till this moment when I am nearly as old 
as she was (sixty, ioth June 1888) ; I think instinctively 
still of asking her something, referring to her for in- 
formation, and I dream constantly of being a girl with 
her at home. But at that moment her loss was nothing 
to me in comparison with the loss of my little child. 

I lost another infant after that, a day old. My spirit 
sank completely under it. I used to go about saying to 
myself, " A little while and ye shall not see me," with a 
longing to get to the end and have all safe — for my 
one remaining, my eldest, my Maggie seemed as if she 
too must be taken out of my arms. People will say it 
was an animal instinct perhaps. Neither of these little 
ones could speak to me or exchange an idea or show 
love, and yet their withdrawal was like the sun going 
out from the sky — life remained, the daylight continued, 
but all was different. It seems strange to me now at 
this long distance — but so it was. 

The glimpse of society I had during my married life 
in London was not of a very elevating kind; or per- 
haps I — with my shyness and complete unacquaintance 
with the ways of people who gave parties and paid 
incessant visits — was only unable to take any pleasure 
in it, or get beyond the outside petty view, and the same 
strange disappointment and disillusion with which the 
pictures and the stage had filled me, bringing down my 
ridiculous impossible ideal to the ground. I have tried 
to illustrate my youthful feelings about this several times 
in words. I had expected everything that was super- 
lative, — beautiful conversation, all about books and the 
finest subjects, great people whose notice would be an 

C 



34 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



honour, poets and painters, and all the sympathy of 
congenial minds, and the feast of reason and the flow 
of soul. But it is needless to say I found none of these 
things. We went " out," not very often, to parties where 
there was always a good deal of the literary element, but 
of a small kind, and where I found everything very com- 
monplace and poor, not at all what I expected. I never 
did myself any justice, as a certain little lion-hunter, a 
Jewish patroness of the arts, who lived somewhere in 
the region about Harley Street, said. That is to say, 
I got as quickly as I could into a corner and stood there, 
rather wistfully wishing to know people, but not ventur- 
ing to make any approach, waiting till some one should 
speak to me; which much exasperated my aspiring 
hostess, who had picked me up as a new novelist, and 
meant me to help to amuse her guests, which I had not 
the least idea how to do. I fear I must have been rather 
exasperating to my husband, who was more given to 
society than I, and tried in vain (as I can now see) to 
form me and make me attend to my social duties, which 
even in such a small matter as returning calls I was terri- 
bly neglectful of— out of sheer shyness and gaucherie, I 
think ; for I was always glad and grateful when anybody 
would insist on making friends with me, as a few people 
did. There was an old clergyman, Mr Laing, who did, 
I remember, and more or less his wife — he especially. 
He liked me, I think, and complimented me by saying 
he did not like literary ladies — a sort of thing people 
are rather disposed to say to me. And Lance (the 
painter of fruits and flowers and still life), who was a 
wit in his way, was also a great friend of mine. He 
dared me to put him in a book, and I took him at his 
word and did so, making a very artless representation, 
and using some of his own stories; so that everybody 
recognised the sketch, which was done in mere fun and 
liking, and pleased him very much — the only actual bit 
of real life I ever took for a book. It was in ' Zaidee,' I 
think. 



MRS S. C. HALL. 



35 



Among my literary acquaintances was the Mr Fullom 
who had read for old Colburn my first book, and whose 
acquaintance as an eminent literary man and great 
notability we had all thought at home it would be such 
a fine thing to make. He turned out a very small per- 
sonage indeed, a solemn man, with a commonplace wife, 
people whom it was marvellous to think of as intellectual. 
He wrote a book called 4 The Marvels of Science,' a dull 
piece of manufacture, for which by some wonderful chance 
he received a gold medal, Fur Kunst, from the King of 
Hanover. I think I see him moving solemnly about the 
little drawing-room with this medal on his breast, and 
the wife following him. He soon stalked away into the 
unknown, and I saw him no more. I forget how I be- 
came acquainted with the S. C. Halls, who used to ask 
me to their parties, and who were literary people of the 
most prominent and conventional type, rather satisfying 
to the sense on the whole, as the sort of thing one ex- 
pected. Mrs Hall had retired upon the laurels got by 
one or two Irish novels, and was surrounded by her 
husband with the atmosphere of admiration, which was 
the right thing for a 44 fair " writer. He took her very 
seriously, and she accepted the r6le, though without, I 
think, any particular setting up of her own standard. 
I used to think and say that she looked at me inquisi- 
tively, a little puzzled to know what kind of humbug 
I was, all being humbugs. But she was a kind woman 
all the same ; and I never forget the sheaf of white lilies 
she sent us for my child's christening, for which I feel 
grateful still. He was certainly a humbug of the old 
mellifluous Irish kind — the sort of man whose specious 
friendlinesses, compliments, and 44 blarney " were of the 
most innocent kind, not calculated to deceive anybody, 
but always amusing. He told Irish stories capitally. 

They had the most wonderful collection of people at 
their house, and she would stand and smile and shake 
hands, till one felt she must stiffen so, and had lost all 
consciousness who anybody was. He on his side was 



36 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



never tired, always insinuating, jovial, affectionate. It 
was at their house, I think, that we met the Howitts — 
Mary Howitt, a mild, kind, delightful woman, who 
frightened me very much, I remember, by telling me"of 
many babies whom she had lost through some defective 
valve in the heart, which she said was somehow con- 
nected with too much mental work on the part of the 
mother, — a foolish thing, I should think, yet the same 
thing occurred twice to myself. It alarmed and sad- 
dened me terribly — but I liked her greatly. Not so 
her husband, who did not please me at all. For a 
short time we met them everywhere in our small circle, 
and then they too disappeared, going abroad, I think. 
There was a great deal about spiritualism (so called) in 
the air at this time — its first development in England, — 
and the Howitts' eldest daughter was an art medium 
producing wonderful scribble-scrabbles, which it was the 
wonder of wonders to find her mother, so full of sense 
and truth, so genuine herself, full of enthusiasm about. 

I remember a day at the Halls, which must have 
been in the summer of 1853. They had then a pretty 
house at Addleston, near Chertsey. My husband and I 
travelled down by train in company with a dark, dash- 
ing person, an American lady, whom, on arriving at the 
station, we found to be going to the Halls too. She 
and I were put into their brougham to drive there, while 
the gentlemen walked; and she did what she could in 
a patronising way to find out who I was. She thought 
me, I supposed, the poor little shy wife of some artist, 
whom the Halls were being kind to, or something of that 
humble kind. She turned out to be a literary person 
of great pretensions, calling herself Grace Greenwood, 
though that was not her real name, — and I was amused 
to find a paragraph about myself, as "a little homely 
Scotchwoman," in the book which she wrote when she 
got back. Two incidents of this entertainment remain 
very clear in my memory. One was, that being placed 
at table beside Mr Frost, the academician, who was 



A SINGING MANDARIN. 



37 



very deaf and very gentle and kind, I was endeavouring 
with many mental struggles to repeat to him something 
that had produced a laugh, and which his wistful look had 
asked to understand, when suddenly one of those hushes 
which sometimes come over a large company occurred, 
and my voice came out distinct — to my own horrified 
consciousness, at least — a sound of terror and shame 
to me. The other was, that Gavan Duffy, one of the 
recent Irish rebels, and my husband began to discuss, 
I suppose, national characteristics, or what they believed 
to be such, when the Irishman mentioned gravely and 
with some heat that the frolic and the wit usually 
attributed to his countrymen were a mere popular de- 
lusion, while the Scotchman with equal earnestness 
repudiated the caution and prudence ascribed to his 
race; which was whimsical enough to be remembered. 

Another recollection of one of the Halls' evening 
parties in town at a considerably later period rises 
like a picture before me. They were fond of every 
kind of lion and wonder, great and small. Rosa Bon- 
heur, then at the height of her reputation, was there 
one evening, a round-faced, good-humoured woman, 
with hair cut short and divided at one side like a man's, 
and indeed not very distinct in the matter of sex so far 
as dress and appearance went. There was there also a 
Chinese mandarin in full costume, smiling blandly upon 
the company, and accompanied by a missionary, who had 
the charge of him. By some means or other the China- 
man was made to sing what we were informed was a senti- 
mental ballad, exceedingly touching and romantic. It was 
like nothing so much as the howl of a dog, one of those 
grave pieces of canine music which my poor old New- 
foundland used to give forth when his favourite organ- 
grinder came into the street. (Merry's performance 
was the most comical thing imaginable. There was 
one organ among many which touched his tenderest 
feelings. When it appeared once a-week, he rushed to 
it, seated himself beside the man, listened till rapture 



38 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



and sentiment were wound up to the highest pitch, 
and then, lifting up his nose and his voice to heaven, 
— sang. There could be no doubt that the dear dog 
was giving forth all the poetry of his being in that 
appalling noise, — his emotion, his sentiment, his pro- 
found seriousness were indisputable, while any human 
being within reach was overwhelmed and helpless with 
laughter.) The Chinaman sang exactly like Merry, with 
the same effect. Rosa Bonheur, I suppose, was more 
civil than nous autres, and her efforts to restrain the 
uncontrollable laugh were superhuman. She almost 
swallowed her handkerchief in the effort to conceal it. 
I can see her as in a picture, the central figure, with 
her bushy short hair, and her handkerchief in her mouth. 
All my recollections are like pictures, not continuous, only 
a scene detached and conspicuous here and there. 

Miss Mulock was another of the principal figures per- 
ceptible in the somewhat dimmed panorama of that far- 
off life. Her friends the Lovells lived in Mornington 
Crescent, which was close to our little house in Harring- 
ton Square, — all in a remote region near Regent's Park, 
upon the Hampstead Road, where it seems very strange 
to me we should have lived, and which, I suppose, is 
dreadfully shabby and out-of-the-way. Perhaps it was 
shabby then, one's ideas change so greatly. Miss 
Mulock lived in a small house in a street a little 
farther off even in the wilds than ours. She was a tall 
young woman with a slim pliant figure, and eyes that 
had a way of fixing the eyes of her interlocutor in a 
manner which did not please my shy fastidiousness. It 
was embarrassing, as if she meant to read the other upon 
whom she gazed, — a pretension which one resented. It 
was merely, no doubt, a fashion of what was the intense 
school of the time. Mrs Browning did the same thing the 
only time I met her, and this to one quite indisposed to 
be read. But Dinah was always kind, enthusiastic, some- 
what didactic and apt to teach, and much looked up 
to by her little band of young women. She too had 



LITERARY LIONS. 



39 



little parties, at one of which I remember Miss Cushman, 
the actress, in a deep recitative, without any apparent 
tune in it, like the voice of a skipper at sea I thought it, 
giving forth Kingsley's song of " The Sands of Dee." I 
was rather afraid of the performer, though long afterwards 
she came to see me in Paris when I was in much sorrow, 
and her tenderness and feeling gave me the sensation of 
suddenly meeting a friend in the darkness, of whose 
existence there I had no conception. There used to 
be also at Miss Mulock's parties an extraordinary being 
in a wheeled chair, with an imperfect face (as if it had 
been somehow left unfinished in the making), a Mr Smed- 
ley, a terrible cripple, supposed to be kept together by 
some framework of springs and supports, of whom the 
story was told that he had determined, though the son 
of a rich man, to maintain himself, and make himself a 
reputation, and had succeeded in doing both, as the writer 
— of all things in the world — of sporting novels. He was 
the author of * Lewis Arundel 9 and ' Frank Fairleigh/ 
both I believe athletic books, and full of feats of horse- 
manship and strength ; which was sufficiently pathetic — 
though the appearance of this poor man somewhat 
frightened me too. 

Mr Lovell, the father of one of Miss Mulock's chief 
friends, was the author of " The Wife's Secret," a play 
lately revived, and which struck me when I saw it as 
one of the most conventional and unreal possible, very 
curious to come out of that sober city man. All the 
guests at these little assemblies were something of the 
same kind. One looked at them rather as one looked at 
the figures in Madame Tussaud's, wondering if they were 
waxwork or life — wondering in the other case whether 
the commonplace outside might not cover a painter or a 
poet or something equally fine — whose ethereal qualities 
were all invisible to the ordinary eye. 

What I liked best in the way of society was when we 
went out occasionally quite late in the evening, Frank 
and I, after he had left off work in his studio, and went 



40 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



to the house of another painter uninvited, unexpected, 
always welcome, — I with my work. Alexander John- 
stone's house was the one to which we went most. I 
joined the wife in her little drawing-room, while he went 
up-stairs to the studio. (They all had the drawing-room 
proper of the house, the first-floor room, for their 
studios.) We women talked below of our subjects, as 
young wives and young mothers do — with a little needle- 
work and a little gossip. The men above smoked and 
talked their subjects, investigating the picture of the 
moment, going over it with advice and criticism; no 
doubt giving each other their opinions of other artists 
and other pictures too. And then we supped, frugally, 
cheerfully, and if there was anything of importance in 
the studio the wives went up to look at it, or see what 
progress it had made since the last time, after supper. 
And then we walked home again. They paid us a 
return visit some days after of just the same kind. If 
I knew them now, which I no longer do, I would ask 
them to dinner, and they me, and most likely we would 
not enjoy it at all. But those simple evenings were very 
pleasant. Our whole life was upon very simple lines at 
this period : we dined in the middle of the day, and our 
little suppers were not of a kind to require elaborate 
preparation if another pair came in unexpectedly. It 
was true society in its way. Nothing of the kind seems 
possible now. 



41 



II. 

January 18, 1891. 

I forget where I left off in this pitiful little record of 
my life. It was with an attempt to remember some- 
body worth telling about in the old life in London. 
We began our housekeeping in Harrington Square, 
on the way to Camden Town, I think, whereabouts a 
number of artists had established themselves; though 
I remember at this moment only the Pickersgills, and 
not even them very well. Then my Maggie was born, 
and my dear mother, then still living, had the joy and 
delight of her grandchild, the third Margaret, — one 
pleasure at least in that dreary ending of her life. I 
remember saying that there had been always something 
wanting to my mother, which I had felt without knowing 
what it was, till I saw her with my baby in her dear 
arms. Maggie was always a beautiful child. My dear 
Kttle Marjorie was always pale and delicate, but with 
glorious eyes — to think of an eight months' old baby 
having these! But I remember that as she died she 
opened them widely and seemed to fix them on me as 
she lay on my knee, giving up her little soul in that look 
of consciousness, as it appeared to me. That was in 1855, 
thirty-six years ago, but I have never forgot the look with 
which that baby died. 

After this we removed to Ulster Place, a larger house, 
which is the house in London upon which my mind 
dwells. I pass it sometimes going to King's Cross, 
when we have gone to Scotland, and a strange fantastic 
thought crossed my mind the first time I did so in these 



42 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



latter years, as if I might go up to the door and go in 
and find the old life going on, and see my husband 
coming down the road, and my little children returning 
from their walk. There was a kind of feeling of increas- 
ing prosperity when we went to that house, more feeling 
than reality ; and I tried to make it pretty, though I fear 
it would have looked rather dreadful to the ideas of this 
changed time. It is at the corner of Ulster Place, 
looking down Harley Street, and next to a large square 
house with gardens, in which the Oudh princesses or 
begums lived when they came to England to plead their 
cause. Some of our windows looked over this garden, 
and we had glimpses of the strange Eastern figures flitting 
about — the white robes and shawls, and gleaming orna- 
ments and dusky faces. Later Frank took a small house 
farther up the road near Baker Street, I think, to make 
a studio, and began to have his painted windows executed 
there under his own superintendence, partly because he 
was not satisfied with the way in which his designs were 
carried out, partly with the hope that he might then get 
into a substantial business, instead of precarious artist- 
work. There was a brightness and hopefulness about the 
beginning. We were both sanguine, and he dreamed of 
work that might go on under his eye and keep our house- 
hold going, while he might return to his painting, which 
was the work he loved best. So things went on very 
brightly for a time. He painted his King Richard picture, 
which was sold for a tolerable price; and then that of 
the Prodigal, which I have still, and which I think a 
very touching picture. And orders came in for windows. 
And, best of all, our delightful boy was born. Ah, me ! 
If I had continued this narrative at the time when I 
broke it off in 1888, I should have told of this event and 
all its pleasantness, if not with a light heart, yet without 
the sudden tears that blind me now, so that I cannot see 
the page. My beautiful delightful child, with all the 
little jests, that he had come too late for church, and so 
was unpunctual all his life after; my Sunday child, 



A QUESTION OF PARTNERSHIP. 



43 



"blythe and bonny and happy and gay," as the old 
rhyme says. I was very anxious at his birth because of 
the two babies I had lost, and had implored the doctor, my 
old, kind, cranky Dr Allison, to examine him and tell me 
honestly if all was well with him. "That fellow ! " he said; 
" he has lungs like a sponge." How well I remember the 
room, the doctor's look, the baby that had brought joy 
with him, the flood of ease and happiness that came into 
my heart. The child was health itself, and vigour and 
sweetness and life. He was born on Sunday, November 
16, 1856. And that winter was a happy and cheerful 
one. Sebastian Evans, then a fine young fellow fresh 
from Cambridge, turned aside from the current of his 
life because of the " doubts," then becoming a fashionable 
malady, which would not let him go into the Church, and 
drifting a little, not knowing what to do, came about a 
window, a memorial to his father; and he and Frank 
taking to each other, remained as an assistant to 
help with the cartoons, and by-and-by with the idea of 
being a partner and sharing the business. He is mixed 
in all this cheerful time for me. He cheered up my 
husband so; his great honest laugh recurs to me; his 
cheerful company, which drew Frank out of the worries 
and troubles with his workmen, and restored him to the 
buoyancy of youth and good fellowship. (I saw him, 
S. E., a few years ago with such a curious sense of the 
downfall that time makes — a rather limited person, 
instead of the genial young man to whom I had always 
been so grateful for the good cheer he brought into the 
studio, and the laugh that was so pleasant to hear.) 
When the idea of a partnership took shape, his brother, 
Mr (now Sir) John Evans, the well-known antiquary, 
who was also a business man — paper-maker, one of the 
'Times' people — came to go through Frank's books (if 
he had any books), and see whether it was worth his 
brother's while. He came afterwards to dine, and it 
was not till he had gone, after all the long evening, that 
I heard what the decision was. After Mr Evans had 



44 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



seen and heard all there was to see and hear, he con- 
gratulated my husband that his circumstances permitted 
him to be so indifferent to profit. And there was an 
end of the partnership, to which I had looked forward 
for the sake of the companionship to Frank, I fear not 
with much thought of profit. We neither of us, I sup- 
pose, knew anything about business — so long as we could 
get on and live, that seemed all one cared for; but it 
was a little dash as of cold water when the business- 
man paid this satirical compliment, and showed us our 
true position. I was, of course, writing steadily all the 
time, getting about £400 for a novel, and already, of 
course, being told that I was working too fast, and 
producing too much. I linger upon this brief, and, as 
it feels to me now, halcyon time. I used the little back 
drawing-room, which was at first dining-room, for my 
work, the real dining-room of the house being Frank's 
painting-room, where I used to write all the morning, 
getting up now and then in the middle of a sentence to 
run down-stairs and have a few words with him, or to 
play with the children when they came in from their 
walk — my dear little Maggie, my baby-boy, two beautiful 
children, fresh and sweet, well and strong, reviving my 
heart, that had been so heavy and sore with the loss 
of my two infants, by the sight of their beautiful shining 
faces. 

When I look back on my life, among the happy 
moments which I can recollect is one which is so 
curiously common and homely, with nothing in it, that it 
is strange even to record such a recollection, and yet it 
embodied more happiness to me than almost any real 
occasion as might be supposed for happiness. It was the 
moment after dinner when I used to run up- stairs to see 
that all was well in the nursery, and then to turn into 
my room on my way down again to wash my hands, as 
I had a way of doing before I took up my evening 
work, which was generally needlework, something to 
make for the children. My bedroom had three windows 



HALCYON DAYS AT AN END. 



45 



in it, one looking out upon the gardens I have men- 
tioned, the other two into the road. It was light enough 
with the lamplight outside for all I wanted. I can see it 
now, the glimmer of the outside lights, the room dark, the 
faint reflection in the glasses, and my heart full of joy and 
peace — for what ? — for nothing — that there was no harm 
anywhere, the children well above stairs and their father 
below. I had few of the pleasures of society, no gaiety 
at all. I was eight-and-twenty, going down-stairs as 
light as a feather, to the little frock I was making. My 
husband also gone back for an hour or two after dinner 
to his work, and well — and the bairnies well. I can feel 
now the sensation of that sweet calm and ease and 
peace. 

I have always said it is in these unconsidered moments 
that happiness is — not in things or events that may be 
supposed to cause it. How clear it is over these more 
than thirty years ! 

In the early summer one evening after dinner (we 
dined, I think, at half-past six in those days) I went 
out to buy some dessert-knives on which I had set my 
heart — they were only plated, but I had long wanted 
them, and by some chance was able to give myself that 
gratification. I had marked them in a shop not far off, 
and was pleased to get them, and specially happy. 
Some one had dined with us, either Sebastian Evans or 
my brother-in-law Tom, — some one familiar and intimate 
who was with Frank. When I came back again there 
was a little agitation, a slight commotion which I could 
not understand ; and then I was told that it was nothing 
— the merest slight matter, nothing to be frightened at. 
Frank had, in coughing, brought up a little blood. 

And so the happy time came to an end. I don't think 
I was much alarmed at first, I knew so little. I was 
quite ready to believe, after the first shock, that it might 
turn out to be nothing, and to have no consequences. 
I was much intent upon going to Scotland that year, 
I remember, to Mrs Moir at Musselburgh — and I did go, 



4 6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



Frank promising to join me in a short time. After I 
was gone I took a great panic in my impulsive way 
and came in to Edinburgh on Sunday morning and tele- 
graphed to him to know how he was, waiting about 
the railway station the whole of the Sunday to have 
an answer, but got none, — only a letter in due time 
scolding me for my foolishness. We had no habit of 
telegraphing in those days, it being still a new thing. 

But he never was well after. I thought, and perhaps 
he too thought, that it was the worry of the work, which 
began to get too much for him, and the difficulty of 
managing the men, who were of the art-workmen class, 
and highly paid, and untrustworthy to the last degree. 
However important it might be to get the work done 
they were never to be relied upon, not even when they 
saw him — always most kind and friendly to them, 
incapable of treating them otherwise than if they had 
been gentlemen — ill, worn-out, dying by inches ; not even 
when it became a matter of life and death for him to 
get free. They were well paid, educated in their way, 
thinking themselves a kind of artists — and I had always 
been brought up with a high idea of the honour and 
virtue of working men. I was very indignant at this 
behaviour, of course, and cruelly undeceived, — and I do 
not think I have ever got over the impression made 
upon me by their callousness and want of honour and 
feeling. I remember most wrathfally contrasting their 
behaviour with that of my maids, who stood by me to 
the last moment; knowing we were breaking up our 
home and going away, and that they would be in no 
respect advantaged by us, yet who were as loyal and 
true as the others were selfish and cruel. My husband 
did not like it to be said — but it was so. Before we 
decided definitely to give up everything and go abroad, 
Frank went to consult Dr Walsh, who was the great 
authority on the lungs at that time. He lived in Harley 
Street, I think. I went with my husband to the door, 
and leaving him there walked up and down the street 



ORDERED SOUTH. 



47 



till he came out again. I think he was to meet Mr 
Quain there, who was attending him at the time. And 
here again there is a moment that stands out clear 
over all these years. I was very anxious, walking up 
and down, praying and keeping myself from crying, sick 
with anxiety, starting at every sound of a door opening. 
He met me with a smile, telling me the report was 
excellent. There was very little the matter, chiefly 
over -work, and that all would be well when he got 
away. The relief was unspeakable: relief from pain is 
the highest good on earth, the most exquisite feeling, 
— I have always said so. It was in the upper part of 
Harley Street that he came up to me and told me this, 
and my heart leapt up with this delightful sense of 
anxiety stillecT. 

Afterwards, in Rome, Robert Macpherson told me what 
he said was the true story of the consultation — that the 
doctors had told Frank his doom; that his case was 
hopeless, but that he had not the courage to tell me 
the truth. I was angry and wounded beyond measure, 
and would not believe that my Frank had deceived me, 
or told another what he did not tell to me. Neither 
do I think he would have gone away, to expose me 
with my little children to so awful a trial in a foreign 
place, had this been the case. And yet the blessed 
deliverance of that moment was not real either. The 
truth most likely lay between the two. 

We left England in January 1859 to S° to Italy. 
We neither of us knew anything about Italy, but that 
it was the sunny South — and of all places in the 
world it was Florence we chose to go to in the middle 
of winter, — Florence not as it is now, but cold and 
austere, without the comforts into which it has been 
trained since then. The journey was a dreadful one. 
Tom Oliphant went with us to Paris. I have no doubt 
that he felt he was taking leave of his brother for the 
last time. We were none of us experienced in Con- 
tinental travelling, and in those days travellers were 



4 8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



shut up in the waiting-rooms, not allowed to get into 
the train till the last moment. It was my first ex- 
perience of having to take the management of things 
myself, and all was new to me, and my French of the 
most limited description. Thus it happened that what 
with my ignorance, and Tom's leave-taking, and the 
two children, and all the excitement and trouble to- 
gether, our luggage was not registered, nobody thinking 
anything about it. We were to sleep at Lyons, and 
when we arrived there late at night the luggage was 
not forthcoming: we had no ticket, — I knew nothing 
about it. Nothing was to be done, accordingly, but to 
telegraph to Paris, and remain in Lyons till it came. 
We had travelled second-class, one of the few times we 
ever did so, — I have always had a stupid objection to 
this kind of economy, perhaps to all kinds of economy, 
though I have never been extravagant, — so I suppose 
our train was a slow one. I remember that there was 
a cheerful young fellow in our carriage who belonged 
to Beau9ain, and who kept Frank amused, and, as it 
became cold in the afternoon, took off his own coat to 
add to the shawls and rugs that were piled upon him, 
and got out at one of the stations to bring a chauffe- 
pied or chauffrctte — a thing filled with wood embers— for 
his feet: the hot- water stools which are such a nuis- 
ance now did not exist then, in second-class at least. 
How grateful I was to this young man, and how 
warmly I remember his kindness over all these years! 
The luggage episode made us very late. We were de- 
tained at the cold dark station at Lyons till all the 
other passengers were gone, and not a cab was to be 
found. At last we were allowed to share one that 
passed with a single passenger in it, and so got to our 
hotel — a helpless party as ever was. My poor Frank, 
ill and worn out, cold and miserable, myself so unac- 
customed to manage, good Jane who had never been 
in a foreign country before, and the two little ones, 
Maggie five, Cyril two — and nothing with us to make 



A CONSIDERATE LANDLORD. 



49 



them comfortable, not even a hand-bag, not a night- 
gown for the children. These little miseries are very 
bad at the time, but I never was one to make much 
of them. I remember Lyons, however, as one of the 
coldest places I ever was in, and the great blank 
desolation of the immense Place Belcoeur, I think. 
Next day Frank insisted that I should go out to see 
the place, though he would not leave the house him- 
self; and I drove, taking Jane and the children with 
me, to Notre Dame de Fourvteres, where there was a 
wonderful view over the town, and the strange little 
church full of ex-votos, which I looked at with a be- 
wildering ignorance, and with such an aching and 
miserable heart, realising for a moment all the misery 
of the journey, my inability to do anything for Frank, 
my utter solitude in this pretence at sight-seeing, which 
I was doing so against my will in obedience to his 
whim. I think that in some things I was younger 
than my years. I was thirty, but with very little ex- 
perience of the world, and always shy and apt to keep 
behind backs. I forget if the luggage came that night, 
but I think it did, and there arose another difficulty. 
We were but very sparingly supplied with money, and 
had brought just enough for the journey to Marseilles 
and one night's rest at Lyons. Circular notes, I think, 
were scarcely used then, — at all events, what we had 
was a letter of credit. And next morning I found that 
we had not enough to pay our bill and journey, and 
that it was a fite, and the banks all closed. This sort 
of thing has never been a bugbear to me as to many 
people, and I went to the landlord of the hotel and 
told him exactly how things were, though with no 
small trembling. No one, however, could be more 
kind than he was. He would not even take from me 
what I could have paid him, but gave me the address 
of a hotel at Marseilles where he directed me to go, 
and pay his bill there. We went away, therefore, in 
much better spirits, having our boxes, and with that 

D 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



elated consciousness of having been kindly treated, 
which, I suppose, gives one a feeling somehow of 
having deserved it, of having been appreciated, for it 
certainly warms the heart and improves the aspect of 
everything. Frank must have been better, for I re- 
member walking down to the harbour with him when 
we got to Marseilles, and discovering — with what thank- 
fulness ! — that the boat for Leghorn had sailed, and that 
we must either wait two days for another or go on by 
land. I hate the sea, and had always longed to do 
this, but had not, I suppose, liked to propose it, or else 
had been overruled by my husband. We went on 
accordingly to Nice by diligence, which was not very 
comfortable, for we were in the interior, the five of us, 
with two other people, — a man and his son going to 
Antibes, where the lad was to draw for the conscrip- 
tion. I forget whether it was on this journey or when 
we were approaching Marseilles that the sunrise upon 
the new unaccustomed landscape struck me so — the 
awful rose of dawn coming over the wide sweep of 
the country, the mulberry trees all stripped of their 
leaves, standing out against the growing light. This 
seems rather a mingling of features; but it is the im- 
pression that remains on my mind, and the great 
silence and the sleeping faces of my companions grey 
in the rising of the daylight. I remember, too, the 
delightful sweeps and folds of the Maritime Alps, the 
green of the cork-trees, as I was told, and the heavenly 
curves of the coast; and Cannes, which I seem to see 
as little more than a village, lying half on the hill and 
half on the beach, with one great stone pine standing 
up against the extraordinary blue of the sea. How 
familiar and commonplace later, how wonderful and 
novel then, like Paradise, the gardens of oranges, the 
hedges of aloes! We must have been about twenty- 
four hours in the diligence or more, and got to Nice, 
I think, in the afternoon. By this time, I suppose, my 
inclination to careless expenditure (such as it was, so 



GENOA. 



51 



little to anybody that had any margin) must have got 
the better of Frank's wiser instincts, for we stayed a 
day or two at Nice, and went the rest of the way in 
a vettura. So far as I recollect, we stopped only once 
— at Alassio — between Nice and Genoa. I shall never 
forget that night: the hotel was an old palace, and in 
those days comfort had scarcely invaded even those 
coasts of the Riviera. We were taken into a huge 
room with a shining marble floor, one or two rugs in 
front of the fireplace and by the side of the bed, and 
no fire. The mere sight of the place was enough to 
freeze the tired traveller, so ill and languid to begin 
with. I feel still the chill that went into my heart at 
the sight of this room, so unfit for him ; but we soon 
got a blazing fire. I remember kneeling by it light- 
ing it with the great fir cones, which blazed .up so 
quickly, and all the reflections, as if in water, in the 
dark polished marble of the floor. 

At Genoa we were somehow strangely fortunate. We 
went to what I have always supposed to be the H6tel de 
la Ville, but that must have been a mistake, and I believe 
it was the Croce di Malta. It was one of the hotels close 
to the bay, looking out over the terrace and promenade 
that surrounds it. And here, again, the outlook being so 
lovely and rest so desirable, Frank wanted to stay. The 
landlady was English, and she offered me a beautiful 
suite of rooms, a great salon, commanding the view, 
with two large bedrooms attached to it. I was en- 
chanted, but in terror for the price — when she said I 
might have it for eight francs a-day, the whole apartment. 
Why she was so good I never could tell. I think it was 
because of my bonnie little Maggie. Whether she had lost 
a child like her, or whether I only fancied so, I cannot 
tell. Perhaps the good woman was sorry for us all, and 
saw, as I did not see, how little chance there was that 
my husband would ever return. I recollect now the 
delight of the beautiful room — the walls all frescoed, 
not very finely perhaps, but yet the mere fact was some- 



52 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



thing, the bay lying before the windows, and what was 
almost as beautiful at the moment — a great fire; not a 
few damp logs as we had been having, but a huge fire 
of coals and wood, which warmed my invalid through 
and through. I remember the glow of it and the children 
playing on the warm carpet, all so perfect a contrast 
to the last night's chill and misery, and the feeling 
of settling down in that comfort and warmth, though 
it was only for two or three days. My heart always 
contrived to rise whenever it had a chance, and I think 
Frank was pleased. 

We got into Florence in a fog, and again very chill 
and tired. I remember thinking that it might have been 
Manchester for anything one saw or felt that was like the 
South, and as soon as that was possible left the hotel 
there for lodgings in Via Maggio. In all this our ignor- 
ance and want of experience did us great harm. The 
Via Maggio, a deep street of high houses on the other 
side of the Arno, was as unfavourable a spot as we could 
have chosen, and to make it worse we were on the shady 
side of the street. The recommendation it had was that 
the mistress of the house, Madame Gianini, was again an 
English, or rather an Irish woman. We were on the 
second floor — a long straggling apartment with some 
rooms towards the Piazza Santo Spirito, I think; and 
these were sunny, and we ought to have hired them, but 
the salon was on the other side, and very cold. I had 
not sense to see how bad that must have been for Frank, 
but used the rooms as they were arranged in a helpless 
way. I think there was a dreadful time at first, — he 
suffering, unable for any exertion, sitting silent, without 
even books, till my soul was crushed, not knowing what 
to do or how to rouse him. I had to go on working 
all the time, and not very successfully, our whole 
income, which was certain for the time, being £20 
a-month, which Mr Blackwood had engaged to send me 
on the faith of articles. To think of the whole helpless 
family going to Italy, children and maid and all, upon 



A TIME OF DEPRESSION. 53 

that alone ! — but things were very cheap in Florence then, 
and I don't think I was at all afraid, nay, the reverse, 
always inclined to spend. Of course this must have 
added to Frank's depression, for which I was sometimes 
inclined to blame him, not knowing how ill he was. He 
got rheumatism in addition to other troubles ; and I have 
the clearest vision of him sitting close by the little stove 
in the corner of the room, wrapped up, with a rug upon 
his knees, and saying nothing, while I sat near the win- 
dow, trying with less success than ever before to write, 
and longing for a word, a cheerful look, to disperse a 
little the heavy atmosphere of trouble. I forget how 
we came to know a Mr Skottowe, a lame man, who had 
been an artist, and who came to see us sometimes, to 
my great thankfulness, for he cheered Frank a little. 
There was also the Scotch minister, Mr Macdougall, 
who is still in Florence, and who sent several people 
to see me, a beautiful Miss M. among the rest, whose 
distinction was that she refused a duke! and who had 
dedicated herself to her old father and mother, then very 
old, and she no longer young, — a very attractive woman, 
whose sacrifice I grudged dreadfully, though she did not. 
I might have got into a little society, but had no desire 
to do so, nor any pleasure in it. I remember Frank 
going to see the Pitti or Uffizi for the first time, and 
coming back in a kind of despair: his feeling was not 
the ancW to pittore, but the other far less cheerful 
sense of what wonders had been done, and how far he 
was from being able to come within a hundred miles 
(as he thought) of what he saw. No doubt illness had 
much to do with this depression, which I, all sanguine 
and sure that he could do what he would, were he but 
well, did not sympathise in, — almost, I fear, felt to be 
a weakness. He recovered his spirits a little after a 
time, when the winter began to pass away and good 
weather came. I remember, however, with great and 
terrible vividness one scene, one day. It was the funeral 
day of a young Archduchess. I forget who she was : the 



54 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



wife of one of the Archduke's sons, who had died 
away from Florence and was brought home for burial, 
Frank, who was sometimes hard on me, as I on him, 
insisted that I should go out to see the procession, which 
I did most unwillingly all alone. It must have been very 
early in the year, for it was at his worst time. I walked 
as far as the Porta Santa Triniti, I think, and I don't 
think I saw any procession. It was a grey day, the 
sky heavy, the Arno running grey under the bridge, 
the hills all grey, the air tingling with the tolling of 
the bells, and sombre streams of people flowing towards 
the gate where the funeral train was to come in; as 
sad as any could be, a young woman forlorn, with 
nobody to give me even a kind look, and nothing be- 
fore or about me that was not as grey and tragic as 
the skies. I paused a little there, having been carried 
so far by the instinct of pleasing him who had sent 
me out to see ; and then I could bear it no longer and 
went back again, to find him sitting silent as before 
— by the fire. 

But things brightened, as I have said, when the 
weather improved and it began to get warm. He 
thought of a picture to paint, a scene in which Macchia- 
velli should be the chief figure, and we began to visit 
the galleries, and to go out together. All sorts of strange 
things — not strange at all now, but wonderful then — 
went on in Via Maggio. Scarcely a night passed but 
we heard the chant of a passing funeral, and going to 
the window saw far below, as in a deep gorge, the torches 
glowing, the strange figures of the confraternity carrying 
the bier, and their tramp on the stony causeway. Some- 
times it was the misericordia, carrying not the dead but 
somebody hurt by an accident ; and in the daytime the 
deep street underneath was always a diversion, and I 
used to look out for the dearest sight of all— two little 
figures at the feet of tall Jane, or rather the one dear 
figure at her feet, the other always with a song or 
shout, in her arm against her ample shoulder. She was 



A PEACEFUL REVOLUTION. 



55 



always very big, at this time about four - and - twenty, 
a finely developed, strong, large, substantial tower of 
a woman — the ox-eyed Juno, as we used to call hen 
Ah me ! would they come down from the Boboli gardens 
with their hands full of anemones if I were at the windows 
of the Casa Grassini now ? 

While we were there the revolution occurred — which, 
so much as we saw of it, was more like a popular festa 
than anything else. We had not known, being strangers 
and Frank so ill, going out little, what was going on ; 
but a curious agitation and excitement made itself some- 
how felt in the air even up in our second floor. I don't 
know really except by a sort of sympathetic instinct 
what it was that took us to the windows to watch the 
unusual coming and going. And then suddenly opposite 
us, in the Casa Ridolfi, I think, there was unfurled a 
great Italian tricolour — the green, white, and red — and 
in a moment like fire the whole population seemed to 
blaze out in the national colours, man, woman, child, 
and horse, every living thing; and there began to be 
a shout of "Viva V Italia!" everywhere, wherever two 
people met in the deep streets, a shout that my dear 
baby boy took up in that little voice of his that was 
never silent. I was very eager too ; but Frank was 
rather nervous, and unwilling to be in any way mixed 
up in the crowd, with whose doings we, as strangers, 
he thought, had nothing to do. I got him, however, at 
last to come out, and we went up to the front of the 
Pitti Palace, where a great many people were hanging 
about, and where at that moment the Grand Duke was 
in full colloquy with the representatives of the people. 
Notwithstanding the excitement of which I was full, 
it was a little forlorn to stand out there with our very 
faint knowledge of Italian, and nobody to tell us what 
was going on; and Frank had no desire to be in the 
heart of the revolution, if it was a revolution, as I 
had. Where all the cockades, the rosettes, the rib- 
bons, the little bouquets, all the red, white, and green 



56 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



came from, at a moment's notice, or without even 
a moment's notice, was an endless wonder to me ; 
and the delight of the people, and the air of universal 
holiday, had none of the graver features that one 
expected. I am not sure that I was not a little 
disappointed at the entire peacefulness of the whole 
proceeding. We heard afterwards that the Grand Duke 
had given orders for the bombardment of the town, which 
would have had a fine effect indeed in Via Maggio had 
it taken place, but I don't know that the report was true. 
Florence was at this time the very cheapest place to live 
in I have ever known. We had, like most other strangers, 
our dinner sent in from the Trattoria every evening. It 
was the usual sort of meal — soup, two kinds of meat, one 
of them generally a chicken, a vegetable dish, and a 
dolce; plenty for us all, with fragments left over, and 
the price was five pauls, not quite two francs fifty cen- 
times. I wonder if anywhere in Europe that could be 
had now? 

We had brought an introduction to the Embassy, and 
the Embassy sent us huge cards in return, but took no 
more notice, which was just as well : what disappointed 
me more was, that the Brownings, to whom also we had 
letters, had left Florence for Rome, where we saw them 
subsequently. By this time I must have written, I sup- 
pose, some half-dozen books or more, and had a little 
bit of reputation, a very little bit in a small way, but 
was very anxious it should be kept to ourselves. Just 
before we left Florence, I remember Mr Skottowe came 
one day quite excited ; he had heard this from Mr Mac- 
dougall, who had heard it accidentally from some one 
else. " I thought," he said, " I had found out there 
was something out of the common for myself, and now 
it appears all the world knows." I wonder if I should 
have remembered that, if it had not been a compliment. 
I did not get many sweetmeats of the kind, so I suppose 
it was a little pleasure to me. I do not know that 
Florence itself impressed me very much: how should 



ROME. 



57 



it, with my mind so full of other things ? — my sick 
husband, my little children, my work, and the pre- 
cariousness of our means of living (though I don't think 
that troubled me much). I remember nature — as I 
always do — more than art, and the view from Bellos- 
guardo above all the treasures of the galleries. Frank 
was profoundly, depressingly, as I have said, impressed 
by the pictures at first — and all the glory of them. I 
for my part used to stray into one small room in the 
Pitti, I think, where at that time the great picture of 
the Visitation — Albertinelli's — hung alone. By that 
time I knew that another baby was coming, and it 
seemed to do me good to go and look at these two 
women, the tender old Elizabeth, and Mary with all 
the awe of her coming motherhood upon her. I had 
little thought of all that was to happen to me before 
my child came, but I had no woman to go to, to be 
comforted — except these two. 

Florence was just becoming warm and bright and good 
for an invalid to live in, when Frank was seized with a 
desire to go to Rome. I think he had heard from Robert 
Macpherson, to whom he was attached. I had only seen 
him once in London, and he was too noisy, too much 
unlike anything I knew, to please me. And I was very 
much afraid for the children. It was just the time when 
people are leaving, not going to, Rome ; and one heard 
of malaria and fever and all sorts of dreadful things. 
But Frank had set his heart upon it, and there was 
nothing more to be said. I think it very likely that, feel- 
ing himself no better, and having the doctor's verdict, 
which he had not told me, in his mind, he wanted me to 
be near the Macphersons, who would be a help and stand 
by. We went on accordingly to Rome in May. I had 
not been very successful in my work for ' Blackwood.' 
I sent a story of Florence called 'Felicita,' I think 
(knowing nothing about Florence!), and other articles, 
not good, and I suppose I must have written something 
for Mr Blackett while in Florence, but I cannot recollect. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



We could not certainly have struck our tents as we did 
and moved on to Rome, by steamboat from Leghorn to 
Civita Vecchia, on our twenty pounds a-month. I re- 
member all about the journey strangely enough, from the 
green water, so translucent and profound under the boat, 
that took us out to the steamer at Leghorn, and the 
remarks of some Irish ladies, who were the companions 
of the voyage, and who made friends with the children, 
and suggested, perhaps guessing from some sad look in 
my face, that there had been some loss between the two, 
— there were but three years between them, but there 
had been two babies born to die : I don't remember their 
names nor anything about them except that, and that 
they were kind — and Irish. Half of the people I have 
met travelling have always been Irish. Maggie was five 
and a half, with her brown curls falling on her shoulders, 
and my little Cyril was two and a half; always the 
sweetest, most winning child. He had been called 
Cyril at first, then by himself when he began to talk 
Tiddy, which was always his family name all his life, 
though not a pretty one; sometimes Tids, which is 
almost too dear, too familiar and tender, the most caress- 
ing of all, to be thought of now. But I must not begin 
to write of my boy, or I will not be able to think of any- 
thing else — not five months yet since he has been taken 
from me I 

The Macphersons had a curious position in Rome, 
and it is difficult to describe them. He always had a 
curious position,— the son of a very poor man in Edin- 
burgh with the humblest connections, yet not distantly 
related, I believe, to Cluny Macpherson, the chief of the 
clan; himself a poor painter — literally a poor painter, 
never good for very much, yet always, as I have been 
told, in society, and with friends quite beyond his ap- 
parent position. There was some romantic story about 
a lady in the Highlands, intercepted letters and so forth, 
which was told on one side as the reason for his leaving 
the country with something like a broken heart, but on 



AN ARTISTIC RESORT. 



59 



the other was made to appear like the disappointment of 
a fortune-hunter. I don't know which was true. There 
was very little that was like a fortune-hunter in his care- 
less, hot-headed, humorous, noisy Bohemian ways. He 
had given up his painting in Rome, and had taken to photo- 
graphing; and his photographs of Rome were, I think, 
among the first that were executed. He had been a long 
time in Rome, had been there during the bombardment, 
and I suppose had rendered some services to the papal 
side, for he was always patronised more or less by the 
priests, and was ncro to the heart, standing by all the old 
institutions with the stout prejudices of an old Tory quite 
inaccessible to reason. Indeed reason had nothing to do 
with him. He was full of generosities and kindness, full 
of humour and whim and fun — quarrelling hotly and 
making up again ; a big, bearded, vehement, noisy man, 
a combination of Highlander and Lowlander, Scotsman 
and Italian, with the habits of Rome and Edinburgh all 
rubbed together, and a great knowledge of the world in 
general and a large acquaintance with individuals in 
particular to give force to the mixture, and to increase 
his own interest and largeness as a man. I could not 
bear him at first, poor Robert, — we used to quarrel upon 
almost every subject ; but in the end I got to be almost 
fond of him, as he was, I believe, of me, though we were 
so absolutely unlike. Some years before I was married 
he had married Geraldine Bate, a niece of Mrs Jameson, 
very much against the aunt's will, to whom the Roman 
photographer seemed a very poor match for her pretty 
Geddie at eighteen. And so he was, and it was not a 
very successful marriage, chiefly perhaps, notwithstanding 
my indignation with the popular fallacy about mothers- 
in-law, because of the constant presence in their house 
of Mrs Bate, who, though entirely maintained by his 
bounty, constantly encouraged Geddie in her little re- 
bellions against her husband and her love of gaiety and 
admiration. But Robert was no meek victim, and never 
hesitated to tell mamma his mind. There used to be a 



6o 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



fierce row often in the house, from which he would stride 
forth plucking his red beard and sending forth fire and 
flame ; but when he came back would have his hands full 
of offerings, even to the mother-in-law, and his face full 
of sunshine, as if it had never known a cloud. Geddie 
was of course full of faults, untidy, disorderly, fond of 
gaiety of every kind, incapable of the dull domestic life 
which seemed the right thing to me, ready to go off upon 
a merrymaking at a moment's notice, indifferent what 
duty she left behind, yet quite as ready to give up night 
after night to nurse a sick friend, and to put herself to 
any inconvenience to help, or take entirely upon her 
shoulders, those who were in need. And though full 
of natural indolence, working like a slave — nay, as no 
slave ever worked — at the common trade, the photograph- 
ing, at which she did quite as much as, if not, people 
said, more than, he did. And a pretty creature, and full 
of vivacity and wit, a delightful companion. A strange 
house it was, a continual coming and going of artists and 
patrons of artists ; of Scottish visitors, of Italian great 
personages and priests, and more or less of all the 
English in Rome. They were, I think, in one of their 
best times (for they had many vicissitudes) when we 
went to Rome first in 1859 — saw everybody. 

My husband was much revived at first by the change 
and by the company of Robert, to whom he had a 
faithful and long attachment from his boyish days, and 
we went with them to their villeggiatura at Nettuno 
in May. It is now, I believe, a sea-bathing place, well 
enough known ; but then it was the rudest Italian village, 
one of the most curious places I have ever seen. I 
described it in a little sketch I made for 'Blackwood,' 
calling it a seaside place in the Papal States, or some 
such title. The rooms, the living, everything was in- 
conceivably rough, the place like a great medieval 
fortress upon the rocks, with the natural agglomeration 
of houses hanging about its skirts. The women were 
handsome and wore a beautiful dress, red satin in long 



UNHAPPY MEMORIES. 



6l 



box -plaits, Greek jackets embroidered with gold, and 
beautiful embroidered white aprons and kerchiefs, with 
a very pretty half-Eastern head-dress. We had some 
very bad and some good days there. Very bad at 
first, and I very miserable; but later Frank took to 
working, and made one very pretty picture of a group 
of lads from the country, whom he saw and brought 
into the loggia to stand to him. It hangs in my 
drawing-room now. He also made two sketches of 
the place itself, which are in my own room, his last 
work. This must have meant that he was feeling 
better. But I remember some dreadful scenes in the 
middle of the night, when his nose-bleeding came on, 
and I stood by him for hours, holding the nostril till 
the blood dried, he going to sleep in the meantime, 
while I stood with the traces all about as if I were 
murdering him. I remember one time when they all 
went off along the coast to Astura, the Macphersons 
and Frank with them, leaving me alone with the 
children, — probably my own fault, as I always had a 
foolish proud way of holding back, — and how I got 
over my little disappointment, and did my very best to 
get a good dinner for them to come back to, and 
arranged everything as nicely as possible, yet when 
they did come, could not keep it up, and was sulky, 
and injured, and disagreeable, notwithstanding that I 
had really taken a great deal of trouble to have every- 
thing ready and pleasant for the party. What trifles 
remain in one's mind! I suppose it was because I 
contrived to be half sorry for myself, and half ashamed 
of myself, that I remember this so clearly. 

When we left Nettuno we went to Frascati, where 
we lived for more than three months, I think, and 
which at first was very pleasant with its great prospect 
over the misty Campagna, where St Peter's was visible, 
the only sign of the existence of Rome. We used to 
go out and walk on the terrace from whence there was 
that view, — and sometimes had a little society, the 



62 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



Noccioli, and Monsignor Pentini, afterwards Cardinal — 
an old trooper priest, who had been a soldier in Ber- 
nadotte's army, and then was supposed too liberal for 
promotion, having been kept back a long time from 
the Cardinal's hat he ought to have had. He was very 
kind, very benignant, the providence and at the same 
time the judge of all the poor people round, whom he 
kept from litigation, settling all their quarrels. I k re- 
member once or twice supping with him and good Ser 
Antonio, and his fat big Irish wife, — such good simple 
people, Monsignor not able to talk to me, nor I to 
him, though he gave me many a kind look. I under- 
stood pretty well what he said, but could not express 
myself either in French or Italian. The Noccioli lived 
in the upper floor of his big old square house, with a 
wonderful view from the windows, and partially fres- 
coed walls, scarcely any furniture, and a supper -table 
gleaming under the three clear flames of the Roman 
lamp, and the melons on the table, which Monsignor 
ate, I remember, with pepper and salt. But Frank 
grew very ill here. He became altogether unable to 
eat anything, not comparatively but absolutely; and 
the awful sensation of watching this, trying with every 
faculty to find something he could eat, and always fail- 
ing, makes me shiver even now, though, God help me ! 
I have had almost a repetition of it. We got an 
Italian doctor there, who was quite cheerful, as I be- 
lieve is their way when nothing can be done, and spoke 
of our return next year, which gave me a little con- 
fidence. On the ist of October we went back to 
Rome, to an apartment we had got in the Noccioli's 
house in the Babuino, where he got worse and worse. 
We had Dr Small, who brought a famous French doc- 
tor, and they told me there was no hope : it was better 
to tell me franchcment, the Frenchman said, and that 
word franchement always, even now, gives me a thrill 
when I read it. They told me, or I imagined they 
told me in my confused state, that they had told 



DEATH OF MR OLIPHANT. 



63 



him, and I went back to him not trying to command 
my tears; but found they had not told him, and that 
it was I in my misery who was taking him the news. 
I remember he said after a while, "Well, if it is so, 
that is no reason why we should be miserable." In 
my condition of health I was terrified that I might 
be disabled from attending my Frank to the last. 
Whether I took myself, or the doctor gave me, a dose 
of laudanum, I don't remember; but I recollect very 
well the sudden floating into ease of body and the dazed 
condition of mind, — a kind of exaltation, as if I were 
walking upon air, for I could not sleep in the circum- 
stances nor try to sleep. I thought then that this was 
the saving of me. I nursed my husband night and 
day, neither resting nor eating, sometimes swallowing 
a sandwich when I came out of his room for a mo- 
ment, sometimes dozing for a little when he slept — 
reading to him often in the middle of the night to try 
to get him to sleep. And when I came out of the room 
and sat down in the next and got the relief of crying 
a little, my bonnie boy came up and stood at my knee 
and pulled down my head to him, and smiled all 
over his beaming little face, — smiled though the child 
wanted to cry too, but would not — not quite three 
years old. When his father was dead I remember 
him sitting in his bed in the next room singing "Oh 
that will be joyful, when we meet to part no more," 
which was the favourite child's hymn of the moment. 
Frank died quite conscious, kissing me when his lips 
were already cold, and quite, quite free from anxiety, 
though he left me with two helpless children and one 
unborn, and very little money, and no friends but the 
Macphersons, who were as good to me as brother and 
sister; but had no power to help beyond that, if any- 
thing could be beyond that. Everybody was very kind. 
Mr Blackett wrote offering to come out to me, to bring 
me home ; and John Blackwood wrote bidding me draw 
upon him for whatever money I wanted. I had sent 



6 4 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



for Effie M., my husband's niece, to come out to me, 
sending money for her journey ; but her mother arrived 
some time after Frank's death, his sister, Mrs Murdoch 
— a kind but useless woman, who was no good to me, 
and yet was a great deal of good as a sort of back- 
ground and backbone to our helpless little party, — for 
I was young still, thirty-one, and never self-confident. 
And there we waited six weeks till my baby was born — 
he as fair and sweet and healthful as if everything had 
been well with us. My big Jane was my stand-by, 
and took the child from the funny Italian-Irish nurse, 
Madame Margherita, who attended and cheered me with 
her jolly ways, and brought me back, she and the baby 
together, to life. By degrees, so wonderful are human 
things, there came to be a degree of comfort, even 
cheerfulness; the children being always bright, — Maggie 
and Cyril the sweetest pair, and my bonnie rosy baby. 
While I write, October 5, 1894, he, the last, is lying 
in his coffin in the room next to me — I have been 
trying to pray by the side of that last bed — and he 
looks more beautiful than ever he did in his life, in 
a sort of noble manhood, like, so very like, my infant 
of nearly thirty-five years ago. All gone, all gone, and 
no light to come to this sorrow any more ! When my 
Cecco was two months old we came home — Mrs Mur- 
doch and Jane and the three children and I — travelling 
expensively as was my way, though heaven knows our 
position was poor enough. 

When I thus began the world anew I had for all 
my fortune about £1000 of debt, a small insurance of, 
I think, £200 on Frank's life, our furniture laid up*in 
a warehouse, and my own faculties, such as they were, 
to make our living and pay off our burdens by. 

Christmas Night, 1894. 
I feel that I must try to change the tone of this record. 
It was written for my boys, for Cecco in particular. 
Now they will never see it — unless, indeed, they are 



A QUESTION OF ETIQUETTE. 



65 



permitted, being in a better place, to know what is 
going on here. I used to feel that Cecco would use 
his discretion, — that most likely he would not print any 
of this at all, for he did not like publicity, and would 
have thought his mother's story of her life sacred ; but 
now everything is changed, and I am now going to 
try to remember more trivial things, the incidents that 
sometimes amuse me when I look back upon them, not 
merely the thread of my life. 

Robert Macpherson came down with us to Civita 
Vecchia to see us off, and, I remember, read to me all 
the way there a story he had written, one of the stories 
flying about Rome of one of the great families, which 
he wanted me to polish up and get published for him. 
It was very bad, poor dear fellow, and beyond doing 
anything with. I used another of these stories which 
he told me, in a little thing I did for ' Blackwood ' some 
time later, the strange tale of the Caesarini — but that 
was too bad. Robert introduced me to Dr Kennedy of 
Shrewsbury when we got on board the steamer, — a large, 
loose-lipped, loquacious man, full of talk, whom I liked 
well enough, and who talked to me pleasantly enough. 
He had two or three young men with him. I have 
always had a half-amused grudge against him, however. 
We were a very helpless party, the baby two months 
old and three other children, for I was bringing Willie 
Macpherson home to his aunt. In those days we had 
to land at Marseilles by small boats, which crowded 
round the steamer as soon as she came to anchor, and 
waited till the passengers had shown their passports and 
got through all the preliminaries. I saw that Dr Kennedy 
had* engaged a large boat, and, though he said nothing 
to me, I was so foolish as to take it for granted that 
he meant me and my helpless party to go to the shore 
with him. It amuses me to think how astonished, how 
wounded and indignant I was, when, getting through 
before me, he and his young men stepped into their boat 
without a word, and left me to get ashore as I could 

E 



66 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



— which, of course, I did all right, never having had 
any difficulty in that way of taking care of myself and 
my own belongings. I dare say he was quite right, 
and I had no claim upon him whatever, — and he was a 
good man, no doubt, and a great scholar. But it could 
not have hurt him to have helped a young woman and 
her children. I was so much astonished that I could 
scarcely believe my eyes. I remember that same night 
at the railway station, when we were all getting off by 
the rapide, I haughtily desired one of the young men 
to stand by two of the children while I got them all 
into a compartment, which he did meekly and rather 
frightened. I did not know where to go in Paris, as 
I could not go back to the same hotel where we had 
been when my husband was with me; and in our 
innocence we went to the Bristol! — my sister-in-law 
having been advised to go there, at second or third hand, 
through Mr Pentland. The rooms were delightful, but 
so were the prices, which I inquired, as we had been 
taught to do in Italy, before taking possession. I 
faltered, and said we had been sent there by Mr Pent- 
land — but The name acted like magic. Mr Pent- 
land, ah ! that was another thing, — the rooms were just 
half the price to a friend of Mr Pentland. He was 
the editor of Murray's Handbooks — but of that im- 
portant fact I was not aware. 

We arrived late at night in London, having been 
detained at Calais by a storm, and got in with the 
greatest difficulty to the Paddington Hotel. 

After this we passed some time with my brother's 
family at Birkenhead, which was not very successful. 
I think it was rather more than I could bear to see 
his children rushing to the door to meet him when he 
came home, and my fatherless little ones ready to rush 
too, though it was so short a time since their father 
had been taken from them. I was always fantastical — 
and there were other things. It is a perilous business 
when one is very sorry for oneself, and the sight of 



INSENSIBLE TO PRAISE OR BLAME. 



6 7 



happy people is apt, when one's wounds are fresh, to 
make the consciousness keener. 

I was reading of Charlotte Bronte the other day, and 
could not help comparing myself with the picture more 
or less as I read. I don't suppose my powers are equal 
to hers — my work to myself looks perfectly pale and 
colourless beside hers — but yet I have had far more 
experience and, I think, a fuller conception of life. I 
have learned to take perhaps more a man's view of 
mortal affairs, — to feel that the love between men and 
women, the marrying and giving in marriage, occupy 
in fact so small a portion of either existence or thought. 
When I die I know what people will say of me: they 
will give me credit for courage (which I almost think 
is not courage but insensibility), and for honesty and 
honourable dealing; they will say I did my duty with 
a kind of steadiness, not knowing how I have rebelled 
and groaned under the rod. Scarcely anybody who cares 
to speculate further will know what to say of my work- 
ing power and my own conception of it ; for, except one 
or two, even my friends will scarcely believe how little 
possessed I am with any thought of it all, — how little 
credit I feel due to me, how accidental most things 
have been, and how entirely a matter of daily labour, con- 
genial work, sometimes now and then the expression 
of my own heart, almost always the work most pleas- 
ant to me, this has been. I wonder if God were to 
try me with the loss of this gift, such as it is, whether 
I should feel it much ? If I could live otherwise I do 
not think I should. If I could move about the house, 
and serve my children with my own hands, I know I 
should be happier. But this is vain talking; only I 
know very well that for years past neither praise nor 
blame has quickened my pulse ten beats that I am 
aware of. This insensibility saves me some pain, but 
it must also lose me a great deal of pleasure. 



68 



III. 

December 30, 1894. 

I resume this from the old book which contains my 
recollections up to 1859, when I came home from Rome 
with my three children, Cecco a baby of two months old. 
I stayed for some months, as I have said, with my 
brother in Birkenhead, and then went to Scotland — to 
Fife — for the summer, taking a small house in Elie. 
The Milligans (Mrs Milligan was Anne Mary Moir, a 
daughter of Delta, one of the girl friends whom I liked 
to have to stay with me in the early days of my married 
life in London) were at Kilconquhar, where Mr Milligan 
was minister, a man afterwards distinguished in his way, 
a well-known Biblical scholar and professor at Aberdeen. 
I was still only thirty-one, and in full convalescence of 
sorrow, and feeling myself unaccountably young notwith- 
standing my burdened life and my widow's cap, which, 
by the way, I put off a year or two afterwards for the 
curious reason that I found it too becoming ! That did 
not seem to me at all suitable for the spirit of my mourn- 
ing : it certainly was, as my excellent London dress- 
maker made it for me, a very pretty head-dress, and an 
expensive luxury withal. 

The Blackwoods werejat Gibleston for the summer, 
a place quite near, so that Ijhad friends within reach. 
I had not seen very much of John Blackwood, but he 
was already a friend, with that curious kind of intimacy 
which is created by a publisher's knowledge of all one's 
affairs, especially when these affairs mean struggles to 
keep afloat and a constant need of money. He had 



EDINBURGH. 



69 



bidden me draw upon him when my husband died, and 
I was very grateful and apt to boast of it, as I have 
or had a way of doing ; so that people who have served 
me in this way, even when, as sometimes happened, the 
balance changed a little, have always conceived them- 
selves to be my benefactors. But he was a genial 
benefactor, and he and his wife used to come to see 
me; so that, though lonely and a stranger, I was not 
entirely out of a kind of society. I must, however, 
have been very lonely, except for the sweet company 
of my three little children and my good Jane, my 
factotum, who had gone with me to Rome as their 
nurse, and helped me in my trouble, and stood faith- 
fully by me through all. I always remember, imme- 
diately after we came home, one dreadful night when my 
dear baby was very ill, and was laid upon her capacious 
shoulder as on a feather-bed, while I watched in anguish, 
thinking the night would never be done or that he would 
not live through it, when suddenly, with one of those 
rapid turns peculiar to infants, he got almost well in a 
moment ! And this picture got itself hung up upon the 
walls of my mind, full of a roseate glow of happiness and 
deliverance instead of the black despair which had seemed 
to be closing round me. 

That winter we went to Edinburgh, where I got a 
droll little house in Fettes Row, down at the bottom 
of the hill, the lower floor and the basement with a 
front door, in truly Edinburgh style — for "flats" were 
not known in England in those days. It was a very 
severe winter, 1860-61, and it was severe on me too. 
I have told the story of one incident in it in my other 
book, but I may repeat it here. I had not been doing 
very well with my writing. I had sent several articles, 
though of what nature I don't remember, to ' Blackwood/ 
and they had been rejected. Why, this being the case, 
I should have gone to them (John Blackwood and the 
Major were the firm at that moment) to offer them, or 
rather to suggest to them that they should take a novel 



7o 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



from me for serial publication, I can't tell, — they so 
jealous of the Magazine, and inclined to think nothing 
was good enough for it, and I just then so little success- 
ful. But I was in their debt, and had very little to go 
on with. They shook their heads of course, and thought 
it would not be possible to take such a story, — both very 
kind and truly sorry for me, I have no doubt. I think 
I see their figures now against the light, standing up, 
John with his shoulders hunched up, the Major with 
his soldierly air, and myself all blackness and whiteness 
in my widow's dress, taking leave of them as if it didn't 
matter, and oh ! so much afraid that they would see the 
tears in my eyes. I went home to my little ones, running 
to the door to meet me with " flichterin' noise and glee " ; 
and that night, as soon as I had got them all to bed, 
I sat down and wrote a story which I think was some- 
thing about a lawyer, John Brownlow, and which formed 
the first of the Carlingford series, — a series pretty well 
forgotten now, which made a considerable stir at the 
time, and almost made me one of the popularities of 
literature. Almost, never quite, though 'Salem Chapel' 
really went very # near it, I believe. I sat up nearly all 
night in a passion of composition, stirred to the very 
bottom of my mind. The story was successful, and my 
fortune, comparatively speaking, was made. It has never 
been very much, never anything like what many of my 
contemporaries attained, and yet I have done very well 
for a woman, and a friendless woman with no one to 
make the best of me, and quite unable to do that for 
myself. I never could fight for a higher price or do 
anything but trust to the honour of those I had to 
deal with. Whether this was the reason why, though 
I did very well on the whole, I never did anything like 
so well as others, I can't tell, or whether it was really 
inferiority on my part. Anthony Trollope must have 
made at least three times as much as ever I did, and 
even Miss Mulock. As for such fabulous successes as 
that of Mrs Humphry Ward, which we poorer writers 



A CURIOUS REMINISCENCE OF THE 'ILIAD.' 7 1 



are all so whimsically and so ruefully unable to explain, 
nobody thought of them in these days. 

I did not see many people in Edinburgh. I was still 
in deep mourning, and shy, and not clever about society 
— constantly forgetting to return calls, and avoiding 
invitations. I met a few people at the Blackwoods', 
and I remember in the dearth of incidents an amusing 
evening (which I think, however, came a few years later) 
when Professor Aytoun dined at Miss Blackwood's, he 
and I being the only guests. Miss Blackwood was one 
of the elders of the Blackwood family, and at this period 
a comely, black-haired, dark-complexioned person, large, 
and much occupied with her dress, and full of amusing 
peculiarities, with a genuine drollery and sense of fun, 
in which all the family were strong. She was sometimes 
the most intolerable person that could be conceived, 
and insulted her friends without compunction; but the 
effect upon me at least was always this — that before 
the end of one of her tirades she would strike, half 
consciously, a comical note, and my exasperation would 
explode into laughter. She was full of recollections of 
all sorts of people, and of her own youthful successes, 
which, though stout and elderly, she never outgrew, — 
still remembering the days when she was called a sylph, 
and never quite sure that she was not making a triumph- 
ant impression even in these changed circumstances. 
She was very fond of conversation, and truly exceed- 
ingly queer in the remarks she would make, sometimes 
so totally out of all sequence that the absurdity had as 
good an effect as wit, and often truly droll and amus- 
ing, after the fashion of her family. I remember when 
some people were discussing the respective merits of 
Rome and Florence, Miss Blackwood gave her vote for 
Rome. "Ah," she said with an ecstatic look, "when 
you have read the ' Iliad ' in your youth, it all comes 
back ! 99 Another favourite story of her was, that when 
one of her brothers asked her, on mischief bent, no 
doubt, " Isabella, what are filbert nails ? " she held out 



72 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



her hand towards him, where he was sitting a little 
behind her, without a word. She had a beautiful hand, 
and was proud of it. 

But I have not told my story of Aytoun. Miss 
Blackwood had asked him to dine with us alone, and 
he came, and we flattered him to the top of his bent, 
she half sincerely, with that quaint mixture of enthusiasm 
and ridicule which I used to say was the Blackwood 
attitude towards that droll, partly absurd, yet more or 
less effective thing called an author; and I, I fear, 
backing her up in pure fun, for I was no particular 
admirer of Aytoun, who was then an ugly man in middle 
age, with the air of being one of the old lights, but 
without either warmth or radiancy. We got him 
between us to the pitch of flattered fatuity which all 
women recognise, when a man looks like the famous 
scene painter, "I am so sick, I am so clevare"; his 
eyes bemused and his features blunted with a sort of 
bewildered beatitude, till suddenly he burst forth without 
any warning with "Come hither, Evan Cameron" — and 
repeated the poem to us, Miss Blackwood, ecstatic, 
keeping a sort of time with flourishes of her hand, and 
I, I am afraid, overwhelmed with secret laughter. I am 
not sure that he did not come to himself with a horrified 
sense of imbecility before he reached the end. 

I got rather intimate with old Mrs Wilson, a very 
dear old lady, the mother of my sister-in-law, Jeanie, 
and of Dr George Wilson and Sir Daniel Wilson — who 
lived at quite a great distance from me, a very long walk 
which I used to take every Sunday afternoon, with a 
complacent sense that it was a fine thing to do. She had 
a lonely day on Sunday, being very deaf, and unable to go 
to church, and her daughter much occupied by Sunday 
classes, &c. Although deaf, she was an amusing and 
good talker, and used to give me all sorts of good advice, 
and tell me stories of her life. Her advice was chiefly 
about my children, whom she wished me to bring up 
on Museums and the broken bread of Science, which 



A FERVENT IRVINGITE. 



73 



I loathed, pointing out to me with triumph how this 
system had succeeded with her own sons. It was a 
very long walk to Elm Cottage. I don't know Edin- 
burgh well enough to say exactly where it was, but I 
had to mount the hill to Princes Street, and then go 
somehow by Bruntsfield Links, I think, past a Roman 
Catholic Convent (St Margaret's?), and a long solitary 
way beyond that. I was rather proud of myself for 
resisting all temptations to take a cab, though the dark 
road by the Nunnery, which was very lonely, used to 
frighten me considerably. 

It was then I first became acquainted with the Storys, 
Mr, afterwards Dr, Story coming to see me in respect to 
my proposed Memoir of Edward Irving, which he had by 
some means heard about. My article in ' Blackwood ' on 
Irving must have been published that winter : no, no, it was 
published much before we went to Italy, and I had been to 
Albury to see Mr Drummond, 1 my husband accompany- 

1 Mr Drummond wrote to me when the article on Irving, which was in a 
manner the germ of the book, was published. It must have been in the end 
of 1848. He and all bis community were much pleased with it, and had a 
notion, which my Roman Catholic friends always share, that since I went so 
far with them I must go the whole way. They gave me great encourage- 
ment accordingly, and I was supposed to be going to do just what they 
wanted to have done. We went to Albury on Mr Drummond's invitation, 
where we stayed three days, I think ; and I remember the sensation with 
which I sat and listened while Mr Drummond, the caustic wit and man of 
the world, explained to me how they were guided in setting up their church, 
and in building their quasi -cathedral in Gordon Square, and of the pillars 
called Jachin and Boas, and a great deal more, while Lord Lovaine, his son- 
in-law, now Duke of Northumberland,* a grave man, whose aspect impressed 
me much, listened gravely, as if to an oracle, and I looked on and wondered, 
amazed, as I sometimes used to be with Montalembert, at the combination of 
what seems to my hard head so much nonsense with so much keen sense and 
power ; though I had much more sympathy with Montalembert, even with his 
medieval miracles, than with Jachin and Boaz. These good people thought, 
partly because of their deep sense of their own importance, and partly by 
a trick of sympathy which I had, and most genuiue it was, that I was 
interested beyond measure in them and their ways, whereas it was in Irving 
I was interested, and listening with all my ears to hear about him, and much 
less concerned about the Holy Apostolic Church. They were disappointed 
accordingly, and not pleased with the book. 



* Died January 1899. 



74 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



ing me, which was the first beginning of that project. 
Mr Story told me of his father's long intimacy with 
Irving, and promised me many letters if I would go to 
the manse of Roseneath to see them. I went accordingly, 
rather unwillingly in cold February weather, grudging the 
absence from my children for a few days very much. I 
did not know anything about the West of Scotland, and, 
winter as it w^s, the lovely little loch was a revelation 
to me, with the wonderful line of hills called the Duke's 
Bowling Green, which I afterwards came to know so 
well. The family at the manse was a very interesting 
one. The handsome young minister, quite young, though 
already beginning to grow grey — a very piquant combina- 
tion (I was so myself, though older by several years than 
he) — and his mother, a handsome old lady full of strong 
character, and then a handsome sister with her baby, 
the most interesting of all, with a shade of mystery about 
her. They were, as people say, like a household in a 
novel, and attracted my curiosity very much. But when 
I was sent to my room with a huge packet of letters, and 
the family all retired for the night, and the deep darkness 
and silence of a winter night in the country closed down 
upon me, things were less delightful. The bed in my 
room was a gloomy creation, with dark-red moreen cur- 
tains, afterwards, as I found, called by Mr Story — witty 
and profane — " a field to bury strangers in." I had a pair 
of candles, which burned out, and a fire, which got low, 
while I agonised over the letters, not one of which I 
could make out. The despairing puzzle of that diabolical 
handwriting, which was not Irving's after all (who wrote 
a beautiful hand), but only letters addressed to him, and 
the chill that grew upon me, and the gradual sense of 
utter stupidity that came over me, I can't attempt to 
describe. I sat up half the night, but in vain. Next 
day Mr Campbell of Row came specially to see me, a 
little shocked, I am afraid, to find the future biographer 
of Irving a young person, rather apt to be led astray and 
laugh with the young people in the midst of his serious 



A MOMENT OF INTROSPECTION. 



75 



talk* Mr Campbell had been a very notable character 
in these parts, and was at that time reverenced and 
admired as an apostle, though perhaps to me a little 
too much disposed, like everybody else, to tell me of 
himself instead of telling me of Irving, on whom my 
soul was bent. I never have had, I fear, a strong 
theological turn, and his exposition at family prayers, 
though I did my best to think it very interesting, con- 
founded me, especially next morning when I had to 
catch the boat at a certain hour in order to catch the 
train and get home to my babies. All these details, 
however, gave a whimsical mixture of fun, to which, a 
sort of convalescent as I was from such trouble and 
sorrow, and long deprived of cheerful society, my mind 
yielded, in spite of a little resistance on the part of my 
graver side, which had honestly expected never to laugh 
again. This visit laid the foundation of a long friend- 
ship and much and generally very lively intercourse. 

How strange it is to me to write all this, with the 
effort of making light reading of it, and putting in 
anecdotes that will do to quote in the papers and 
make the book sell ! It is a sober narrative enough, 
heaven knows ! and when I wrote it for my Cecco to 
read it was all very different, but now that I am doing 
it consciously for the public, with the aim (no evil aim) 
of leaving a little more money, I feel all this to be 
so vulgar, so common, so unnecessary, as if I were 
making pennyworths of myself. Well ! what does it 
matter ? Will my boys ever see it ? Do they ever 
see me? Have they the power, as some one says, of 
being present when they desire to be by a mere process 
of thought ? I would rather it were not so. I should 
not like to fix them to earth, to an old mother, an old 
woman, when they are both young men in the very 
height of life. But why should I turn back here to 
this continual strain of my thoughts? There is too 
much of this already. I got a letter from Dr Story 



7 6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



the other day, from Taymouth, about which we had 
wandered once together in a little holiday expedition 
full of talk and frolic, more than thirty years ago. It 
was a very kind letter. I could see that his heart 
swelled with pity for the lonely woman, bereaved of 
all things, whom he had known so different. Good 
friend, though we have drifted so far apart since then. 
But I must try to begin again. 

I saw various other people besides Mr Campbell and 
the Storys, in pursuit of information about Irving, and 
came across some amusing scenes, though they have 
passed out of my recollection for the most part. I re- 
member making the discovery already noted — which, of 
course, I promulgated to all my friends — that every one 
I saw on this subject displayed the utmost willingness 
to tell me all about themselves, with quite a secondary 
interest in Irving. One gentleman in Edinburgh told 
me the whole story of his own wife's illness and death, 
and that he had reflected on the evening of her death 
that his children were almost more to be pitied than 
himself, since it was possible that he might get a new 
wife, while they could never have a new mother. Not 
an original thought, perhaps, but curious as occurring 
at such a moment. This was told me apropos of the 
fact that Irving, I think, had once dined in the house 
during the reign of that poor lady. She had more 
than one successor, if I remember rightly. 

One of my people whom I went to see on this subject 
was Dr Carlyle, whom I found surrounded with huge 
books, — books of a kind with which I was after- 
wards well acquainted — the 'Acta Sanctorum' and the 
like. He was writing a life of Adamnan, the successor 
of Columba. My recollection of him is of a small, rather 
spruce man, not at all like his great brother. (Mrs Car- 
lyle used to say of Dr John that he was one of the people 
who seemed to have been born in creaking shoes.) It 
must have been he who told me to go and see Carlyle 



CARLYLE. 



77 



himself, who could tell me a great deal more than he 
could about Irving. I fancy that I must have made a 
run up to London from Edinburgh in the summer of 
1861, and stayed with Mrs Powell in Palace Gardens — 
a sister of Mr Maurice, who had been very kind and 
friendly to me for a year 0% two before my husband's 
death. This must have been my first visit to her after, 
for I remember that she questioned me as to how I was 
"left," and that I answered her cheerfully, "With my 
head and my hands to provide for my children," and 
was truly surprised by her strange look and dumb amaze- 
ment at my cheerfulness. I suppose now, but never 
thought then, that it was something to be amazed at. I 
don't remember that I ever thought it anything the least 
out of the way, or was either discouraged or frightened, 
provided only that the children were all well. 

It was on this occasion that, shy as I always was, 
yet with the courage that comes to one when one is 
about one's lawful work, and not seeking acquaintance 
or social favour, I bearded the lion in his den, and 
went to see Mr Carlyle in the old house in Cheyne 
Row, which people are now trying, I think very un- 
wisely, to make a shrine or museum of, which I should 
myself hate to see. He received me (I suppose I must 
have had an introduction from his brother) with that 
perfect courtesy and kindness which I always found in 
him, telling me, I remember, that he could tell me 
little himself, but that " the wife " could tell me a 
great deal, if I saw her. I forget whether he took any 
steps to acquaint me with "the wife," for I remember 
that I left Cheyne Row with a flutter of disappoint- 
ment, feeling that though I had seen the great man, 
which was no small matter, I was not much the wiser. 
I remember his tall, thin, stooping figure between the 
two rooms of the library on the ground floor, in the 
pleasant shadow of the books, and subdued light and 
quiet in the place which seemed to supply a very ap- 
propriate atmosphere. I did not even know, and cer- 



78 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



tainly never should have learned from any look or tone 
of his, that I had run the risk of being devoured alive 
by thus intruding on him. But though I was fluttered by 
the pride of having seen him, and that people might 
say " II vous a parl6, grand'mdre," I felt that my hopes 
were ended and that this, was to be all. However, I 
was mistaken. A day or two after I was told (being 
still at Mrs Powell's) that a lady whose carriage was 
at the door begged me to go out and speak to her, 
Mrs Carlyle. I went, wondering, and found in a 
homely little brougham a lady with bright eyes and 
very hollow cheeks, who told me she had to be out in 
the open air for certain hours every day, and asked me 
to come and drive with her that we might talk about 
Irving, whom her husband had told her I wanted to 
hear about. She must have been over sixty at this 
time, but she was one of those women whom one never 
thinks of calling old ; her hair was black without a grey 
hair in it (mine at half the age was already quite grey), 
her features and her aspect very keen, perhaps a little 
alarming. When we set off together she began by asking 
me if I did not come from East Lothian; she had 
recognised many things in my books which could only 
come from that district. I had to answer, as I have 
done on various occasions, that my mother had lived 
for years in East Lothian, and that I had been so 
constantly with her that I could never tell whether 
it was I myself who remembered things or she. This 
made us friends on the moment; for she too had had 
a mother, whom, however, she did not regard with all 
the respect I had for mine. What warmed my heart 
to her was that she was in many things like my mother ; 
not outwardly, for my mother was a fair radiant woman 
with a beautiful complexion, and Mrs Carlyle was very 
dark, with a darkness which was, however, more her 
meagreness and the wearing of her eager spirit than 
from nature, or, at least, so I thought, — but in her 
wonderful talk, the power of narration which I never 



THE ART OF MAKING PEOPLE TALK. 



79 



heard equalled except in my mother, the flashes of 
keen wit and sarcasm, occasionally even a little sharp- 
ness, and always the modifying sense of humour under 
all. She told me that day, while we drove round and 
round the Park, the story of her childhood and of her 
tutor, the big young Annandale student who set her up 
on a table and taught her Latin, she six years old and 
he twenty ("perhaps the prettiest little fairy that ever 
was born," her old husband said to me, describing this 
same childhood in his deep broken-hearted voice the 
first time I saw him after she was gone). I felt a little 
as I had felt with my mother's stories, that I myself 
remembered the little girl seated on the table to be on 
his level, repeating her Latin verbs to young Edward 
Irving, and all the wonderful life and hope that were 
about them, — the childhood and the youth and aspira- 
tion never to be measured. We jogged along with the 
old horse in the old fly and the steady old coachman 
going at his habitual jog, and we might have been 
going on so until now for anything either of us cared, 
— she had so much to say and I was so eager to hear. 

I have one gift that I know of, and I am a little 
proud of it. It is that of making people talk — at least, 
of making some people talk. My dear Lady Cloncurry 
says that it is like the art of driving a hoop, — that I 
give a little touch now and then, and my victim rolls 
on and on. But my people who pour forth to me are 
not my victims, for I love to hear them talk and they 
take pleasure in it, for the dear talk's sake on both 
sides, not for anything else; for I have never, I am 
glad to say, been " a student of human nature " or any 
such odious thin^, nor practised the art of observa- 
tion, nor spied upon my friends in any way. My own 
opinion has always been that I was very unobservant, 
— whatever I have marked or noted has been done 
quite unaware; and also, that to study human nature 
was the greatest impertinence, to be resented whenever 
encountered* 



8o 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



My friendship with Mrs Carlyle was never broken 
from this time — it must have been the summer either 
of i860 or 1861 — till her death. She came to see me 
frequently, and I spent some (but few) memorable even- 
ings in her house, but at that time did not see her 
husband again. 

January 22. 

I have been reading the life of Mr Symonds, and 
it makes me almost laugh (though little laughing is in 
my heart) to think of the strange difference between 
this prosaic little narrative, all about the facts of a life 
so simple as mine, and his elaborate self - discussions. 
I suppose that to many people the other will be the 
more interesting way, just as the movements of the 
mind are more interesting than those of the body, or 
rather of the external life. I might well give myself 
up to introspection at this sad postscript of my life, 
when all is over for me but the one event to come, 
which will, I hope and believe, do away with all the 
suffering past and carry me back, a happy woman, to 
my family, to a home; though whether it will be like 
the home on earth who can tell ? Nothing can be more 
sad than the home on earth in which I am now, — the 
once happy home that rang with my boys' voices and 
their steps, where everything is full of them, and every- 
thing empty, empty, cold, and silent ! I don't know 
whether it is more hard for me to be here with all 
these associations, or to be in some other place which 
might not be so overwhelming in its connection with 
what is past. But it is not a question I need discuss 
here. Indeed I must not discuss here any question 
of the kind at all, for any attempt at discussing myself 
like Mr Symonds, if I were likely to make it, only would 
end in outlines of trouble, in the deep, deep sorrow that 
covers me like a mantle. I feel myself like the sufferers 
in Dante, those of whom we have been reading, who 
are bent under the weight of stones, though I think I 
may say with them that invidiosa non fui ; but this is 



J. A. SYMONDS. 



8l 



not to put myself under a microscope and watch what 
goes on in so paltry a thing, but only the continual 
appeal I am always making to heaven and earth, con- 
sciously or unconsciously, saying often, I know, as I 
have no right to say, " Is this fair, — is it right that I 
should be so bowed down to the earth and everything 
taken from me ? " This makes of itself so curious a 
change even in this quite innocent little narrative of 
my life. It is so strange to think that when I go it 
will be touched and arranged by strange hands, — no child 
of mine to read with tenderness, to hide some things, 
to cast perhaps an interpretation of love upon others, 
and to turn over all my papers with the consciousness 
of a fall right to do so, and that theirs is by nature 
all that was mine. Good Mr Symonds, a pleasant, 
frank, hearty man, as one saw him from outside ! God 
bless him! for he was kindly to Cecco, who in his 
tender kindliness made a little pilgrimage to Davos the 
year after Mr S. died to see his family and offer his 
sympathy — one of the many unrevealed impulses of kind- 
ness he had which they never probably guessed at all. 
But it is vain for me to go on in this strain. I have 
fallen back into my own way of self-comment, — and that 
is such a different thing. 

In the beginning of the winter of 1861 I went to 
Ealing, and settled down there in a tiny house on the 
Uxbridge Road. It had a small drawing-room opening 
on a rather nice garden, a long strip of ground truly 
suburban, with a pretty plot of grass, a hedge of 
lilacs and syringas, and vegetables beyond that, — very 
humble, but I had no pretensions. I think by moments 
I must have been quite happy here. I remember the 
cluster of us on the grass, my little Maggie, a little 
mother in her way, and the two boys. We kept 
pigeons for the first and only time, and the pretty 
creatures were fluttering about, and the house standing 
all open doors and windows, and the sunshine and 

F 



82 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



peace over all. I wrote a few verses, I remember, 
called "In the Eaves/' and had a pang of conscious 
happiness, always touched with foreboding. 

I had gone to Ealing to be near the Blacketts, who, 
much better off than I and in a much bigger house as 
became a publisher, lived also in the village, which was 
not half the size it is now. I had got very intimate with 
them somehow, I can scarcely tell how. Mrs Blackett 
was about my age, and a fine creature, very much more 
clever than her husband, though treated by him in any 
serious matter as if she had been a little girl, — a thing 
quite new to me, and which I could not understand. I 
remember later by some years, at a time when she had 
got to be very anxious about the education of her boys 
and he had been somehow moved — a little, perhaps, by 
myself, impelled in secret by her — to think of sending 
Arthur to Eton, that while talking it over with me, he 
suddenly turned to her and said, "Come, Nell, tell me 
what you think — let us hear your opinion." I remember 
the frightened look that came on her face, the same 
look which came over it when she flew before the cow 
for which she was frightened, and she cried, " Oh, Henry, 
whatever you think best," and morally ran away, though 
it was indeed her movement through another which was 
in reality setting him agoing. Now, why was she afraid 
of him? He was as good to her as a rather good- 
humoured but self-important man could be, very fond 
of her and very proud of her. She was a pretty woman, 
bright and full of spirit, and much his superior, knowing 
nothing about books, indeed, but neither did he, — why 
was she frightened to express an opinion while privately 
moved very strongly, much more strongly than he was, 
with the desire to get that important matter decided, 
and secretly working upon him by all the means at 
her command? Through their house — planned like so 
many houses of the same kind, on the system of having 
everything as expensive as could be got, and making 
as little show as possible for the money, the latter 



THE AUTHOR OF 'JOHN HALIFAX.' 



»3 



not, perhaps, intentional, but from preference for the 
humdrum — there fluttered a confused drift from time 
to time of literary persons, somewhat small beer like 
myself, novel-writers and suchlike. These were all 
very literary: our hosts were not literary at all, but 
with a business interest in us, along with a certain 
kindly contempt, such as publishers generally entertain 
for the queer genus writer. It was kindly at least on 
the part of the good Blacketts, who were the kindest 
folk, he always very brotherly to me, and she most 
affectionate. I was very fond of Ellen Blackett, ad- 
mired her and thought much of her. Their house was 
full of big noisy boys, some of them just the same ages as 
mine — a great bond between young mothers; handsome 
boys, wild and troublesome in later life, but with that 
stout commercial thread in them which brings men back 
to a life which is profitable when they have sown their 
wild oats, — not the highest motive, perhaps, but a re- 
cuperative force, such as it was. 

I had introduced Mr Blackett by his desire to Miss 
Mulock in London, — he, apparently with some business 
gift or instinct imperceptible to me, having made out 
that there were elements of special success in her. 
Probably, however, this instinct was no more than an 
appreciation in himself of the sentimentalism in which 
she was so strong. He had at once made an arrange- 
ment with her, of which 'John Halifax* was the result, 
the most popular of all her books, and one which raised 
her at once to a high position, I will not say in literature, 
but among the novel-writers of one species. She made a 
spring thus quite over my head with the helping hand 
of my particular friend, leaving me a little rueful, — I 
did not at all understand the means nor think very 
highly of the work, which is a thing that has happened 
several times, I fear, in my experience. Success as 
measured by money never came to my share. Miss 
Mulock in this way attained more with a few books, 
and these of very thin quality, than I with my many. 



84 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



I don't know why. I don't pretend to think that it 
was because of their superior quality. I had, however, 
my little success too, while I lived in Ealing. I began 
in 'Blackwood' the Carlingford series, beginning with 
a story called 'The Doctor's Family,' which I myself 
liked, and then 'Salem Chapel.' This last made a 
kind of commotion, the utmost I have ever attained 
to. John Blackwood wrote to me pointing out how 
I had just missed doing something that would have 
been made worth the while ; and I believe he was 
right, but the chapel atmosphere was new and pleased 
people. As a matter of fact I knew nothing about 
chapels, but took the sentiment and a few details from 
our old church in Liverpool, which was Free Church 
of Scotland, and where there were a few grocers and 
other such good folk whose ways with the minister 
were wonderful to behold. The saving grace of their 
Scotchness being withdrawn, they became still more 
wonderful as Dissenting deacons, and the truth of the 
picture was applauded to all the echoes. I don't know 
that I cared for it much myself, though Tozer and the 
rest amused me well enough. Then came ' The Per- 
petual Curate ' and 1 Miss Marjoribanks.' I never got 
so much praise, and a not unfair share of pudding too. 
I was amused lately to hear the comments of Mr David 
Stott of Oxford Street, the bookseller, on this. He told 
me that he had been in the Blackwoods' establishment 
at the time, and of the awe and horror of Mr Simpson 
at the prodigal extravagance of John Blackwood in 
giving me the price he did, £1500, for ' The Perpetual 
Curate.' One could see old Simpson, pale, with the 
hair of his wig standing up on his head, remonstrating, 
and John Blackwood, magnanimous, head of the house 
of Blackwood, and feeling rather like a feudal suzerain, 
as he always did, declaring that the labourer was worthy 
of his hire. Stott had the air too of thinking it was 
sinful extravagance on the editor's part. As for me, 
I took what was given me and was very grateful, and 



CARLYLE IN A NEW LIGHT. 



85 



no doubt sang praises to John. On the other side, it 
was Henry Blackett who turned pale at Miss Mulock's 
sturdy business-like stand for her money. He used to 
talk of his encounters with her with affright, very 
grave, not able to laugh. 

This was also the time when I wrote the * Edward 
Irving.* It must have been my good time, the little 
boat going very smoothly and all promising well, and, 
always my burden of happiness, the children all well. 
They had the measles, I remember, and were all a little 
ill the day of the Prince of Wales's marriage, Cyril 
least ill of all, but feverish one day, when, as I stood 
over him, putting back his hair from his little hot fore- 
head, he said to me with a pretty mixture of baby 
metaphor, which I was very proud of and never forgot, 
"Oh, mamma, your hand is as soft as snow." How 
like him that was, the poetry and the perception and 
the tenderness ! Cecco too had a momentary illness, — 
a little convulsion fit which frightened me terribly, 
one of the few times when I quite lost my head. I 
remember holding him in his hot bath, and all the 
while going on calling for hot water and hearing myself 
do so, and unable to stop it. It was a day on which 
Mrs Carlyle was coming for the afternoon. When she 
arrived I was sitting before the fire (though it was 
summer), with my baby wrapped in a blanket, just 
out of his bath, and humming softly to him, and he 
had just startled me out of my misery and made my 
heart leap for joy, by pulling my face to him with a 
way he had and saying, all himself again, "Why you 
singing hum-hum ? Sing 'Froggy he would a-wooing go.' " 
He was only two and a-half. Mrs Carlyle sat by me, so 
kind and tender and full of encouragement, as if she had 
known all about babies, but did not stay very long. I 
think I can see her by the side of the fire, telling me all 
kinds of comforting things ; and by the first post possible 
that same evening, I got a letter from her telling me that 
Mr Carlyle had made her sit down at once and write to 



86 AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



tell me that a sister of his had once had just such an 
attack, which never was repeated, God bless them, 
that much maligned, much misunderstood pair! That 
was not much like the old ogre his false friends have 
made him out to be. 

Here is a pretty thing. I should like if I could to 
write what people like about my books, being just then, 
as I have said, at my high tide, and instead of that all 
I have to say is a couple of baby stories. I am afraid 
I can't take the books au grand serieux. Occasionally 
they pleased me, very often they did not. I always 
took pleasure in a little bit of fine writing (afterwards 
called in the family language a "trot"), which, to do 
myself justice, was only done when I got moved by my 
subject, and began to feel my heart beat, and perhaps a 
little water in my eyes, and ever more really satisfied by 
some little conscious felicity of words than by anything 
else. I have always had my sing-song, guided by no 
sort of law, but by my ear, which was in its way 
fastidious to the cadence and measure that pleased me ; 
but it is bewildering to me in my perfectly artless art, 
if I may use the word at all, to hear of the elaborate 
ways of forming and enhancing style, and all the studies 
for that end. 

A good deal went on during that short time at Ealing. 
I had visitors, Miss Blackwood for two months, and 
much driving up and down to London to the Exhibition 
of 1862, which I loathed ; but she enjoyed and dragged 
me, if not at her chariot wheels yet in the " rusty fly," 
which added very much to my expenses and wasted my 
time, with the result of being set down by her as very 
extravagant, — a reproach which has come up against me 
at various periods of my life. Dr Story came with her, 
or at least at the same time, and afterwards Principal 
Tulloch and his wife, whose acquaintance I had made 
at Edinburgh, St Andrews, and Roseneath in the inter- 
vening summer of these two years, which I spent at 
Roseneath, for which I had taken a great fancy — the 



ROSEN EATH. 



87 



beautiful little loch and the hills. I must have gone 
then to Willowburn, a small house on a high bank, 
with a lovely view of the loch and the opposite shore, 
all scattered with houses among the trees, with the 
steamboat bustling up and down, and a good deal of 
boating and singing and Highland expeditions, — all very 
amusing, almost gay, as I had seldom been in my life 
before. There was always a youthful party in the manse, 
and the Tullochs generally for a time, and various visitors 
coming and going, — from the high respectability of Mr 
Edward Caird, now Master of Balliol, and Mr Moir, to 
all sorts of jocular and light-minded people. I remember 
coming home from some wildish expedition, sunburnt 
and laden with flowers, — a small group full of fun and 
laughter sitting together on deck, — when suddenly the 
handsome serious form of Mrs M., always tiree a quatre 
epingles, always looking propriety itself, was seen slowly 
ascending up the cabin stairs, to the confusion and 
sudden pallor of myself in particular, to whom she was 
coming on a visit, I doubt if I had ever been so gay. 
I was still young, and all was well with the children. 
My heart had come up with a great bound from all the 
strain of previous trouble and hard labour and the valley 
of the shadow of death. There was some wit, or at least 
a good deal of humour, in the party, and plenty of 
excellent talk. The Principal talked very well in those 
days — indeed he always did, but never so well as at that 
time ; and Mr Story, too, was an excellent talker, and his 
sister very clever and bright; and my dear padrona, 1 
if she never said very much, always quick to see every- 
thing, and never able to resist a laugh. We got to have 
a crowd of allusions and mutual recollections after all 
our boatings and drivings and ludicrous little adventures 
on the loch and the hills, which produced a great deal of 
laughter even when they were not witty — Jack Tulloch's 
appetite, for instance, when he was taken with us on 
one occasion, and looked on with exquisite contempt 

1 Mrs Tulloch. 



88 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



at our admiring raptures over the scenery, but came 
to life whenever lunch was going, and was devotedly 
attended by the Highland waiters, who entered into the 
joke and plied him with dish after dish. He was only 
about eleven, poor boy. We were like Farmer Flam- 
borough and his daughters, just as much amused by all 
these small matters as if they had been the most amusing 
things in the world. Miss Blackwood continued to make 
part occasionally of our expeditions, and always an 
amusing part. She was full of the humour and drollery 
of her family, gifts in which they were all strong, 
with many little eccentricities of her own, fits of temper 
almost always redeemed at the end by a flash of fan 
which made the incipient quarrel end in a burst of 
laughter. 

I worked very hard all the time, I scarcely know how, 
for I was always subject to an irruption of merry neigh- 
bours bent on some ramble, whom, when they came in 
the evening, my big Jane, now more cook than nurse 
and general factotum, fed with great dishes of maccaroni, 
which she had learned to make in Italy, and which was 
our social distinction: everything was extremely primi- 
tive at Willowburn. We had one cab in the place, 
which took me solemnly now and then to dinner at 
the manse and other places, and which was driven by 
a certain Andie Chalmers who was our delight, who 
spoke in a soft, half - articulate murmur, all vowels, 
very tolerant of the pouring rain through which he 
drove us occasionally through many a wet mile of road, 
allowing with a smile that it was a "wee saft" when 
there was a deluge, and who used to come to the cab 
door at the foot of a hill with mild insistence, inaccessible 
to remonstrance, till we one by one unwillingly, yet 
with merry jests, got out to ease the horse. 

I suppose after all that I only went for two summers 
to Roseneath, but it seems to have bulked very largely 
in my life: there was a third later, but that was in 
another age, as will be seen, and I was not quite three 



THE TRAGEDY OF A FALSE QUANTITY. 



8 9 



years in Ealing, Here I had often with me, as I had 
a fancy for having, a young lady on a long visit. It 
would be cruel to name by name the dear good girl, 
who was brought by her mother to join us one time 
where we were living, the whole party of us, — myself, 
big Jane, and the three children. The girl was very 
tearful and pale, and her mother whispered to me 
to take no notice, that she had been praying for 
strength to pay me this visit, in which, however, she 
enjoyed herself very much, I believe. This was, I fear, 
too good a joke to be kept from my friends. 

It was in the summer of 1863 that Geraldine Macpher- 
son came to spend some time with me at Ealing. She 
was much shattered with Roman fever, and she had a 
very bad illness of another kind, almost fatal, in my 
house. The high-spirited creature never gave in, kept 
her courage and composure through everything, but was 
as near as possible gone. How one wonders vainly 
whether, if some one thing like this had not happened, 
the tenor of one's entire life might have been changed. 
It was she who persuaded me to go back to Rome when 
she returned. She persuaded the Tullochs also, to my 
great surprise, and I daresay their own. The Principal 
had been ill. It was the first of those mysterious ill- 
nesses of his when he fell under the terrible influence 
of a depression for which there was no apparent cause. 
He was in the depths of this when he and his wife were 
with me in 1862, and he told me the whole story of it. 
It originated (or he thought it did) in (of all things in 
the world) a false quantity he had made in some Latin 
passage he had quoted in a speech at some Presbytery 
or Assembly meeting. He told it with such impassioned 
seriousness, with his countenance so full of sorrow and 
trouble, his big blue eyes full of moisture, that I was 
much impressed, and, I remember, gave him out of my 
sympathy and emotion the equally inconceivable advice 
to call the men together to whom that speech had been 
made, and make a clean breast of it to them. I remem- 



90 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



ber he was staggered in the extravagance of his talk by 
this queer insane suggestion, and perhaps a touch more 
would have awakened the man's wholesome humour and 
driven the strange delusion away in a shout of laughter ; 
but I was deadly serious, as was he. He was beginning 
to mend, and had been ordered a sea-voyage, and some- 
body offered him a passage in a Levant steamboat to 
Greece, And now, what with Geddie's persuasions and 
a spring of eager planning on my part how and when to 
go, Mrs Tulloch made up her mind to come to Rome to 
meet her husband, then on his way back, bringing her two 
eldest girls while he took his eldest boy. There was a 
crowd of little children left at home, and I have no doubt 
if I heard of such a proceeding now I should think it the 
wildest plan. But we carried it out notwithstanding, 
with a delightful indifference to ways and means which 
makes me shudder when I look back upon it. We set 
out the merriest party, ready to enjoy everything, the 
padrona, as I soon began to call her, with her daughters 
Sara and Fanny, Geddie, myself, my Jane, and the 
children, all so small, so happy, so bright, my three little 
things — Maggie approaching eleven. We took out a 
French governess with us for the sake of the children, a 
Mdlle. Coquelin, I think, who soon dropped out of my 
life after the great calamity came. But in the meantime 
we were all gay, fearing nothing. I remember very dis- 
tinctly our journey from Paris to Marseilles, because 
it was a cheap journey, second class, and monstrous in 
length, twenty-seven hours, I think ; but we were all very 
economical to start with. The endless journey it was ! 
We were all dead-tired when we arrived, but when we 
reached our hotel and got round a table, and well warmed 
and refreshed with an innocent champagne, St Peray, 
which I made them all drink, our spirits recovered. I 
was always great in the way of feeding my party, — would 
not hear of teas or cofifee meals, but insisted upon meat 
and wine, to the horror but comfort of my companions. 
That, I believe, was one reason why there were never any 



THE LONG DREARY LANE OF LIFE. 9 1 



breakdowns among us while travelling. I think with 
pleasure of the pleasant tumult of that arrival, — the delight 
of rest, the happy sleepy children all got to bed, the little 
party of women, all of us about the same age, all with 
the sense of holiday, a little outburst of freedom, no man 
interfering, keeping us to rule or formality. I don't 
know why it should present itself to me under so pleasant 
a light, for I never liked second-class journeys, nor dis- 
comforts of that kind. How often have I travelled that 
road since, but never so free or light of heart ! Heavy 
and sad are its recollections now, but it is a blessing of 
God that a happy moment (which is so much rarer) is 
more conspicuous in life, lighting up the long dreary lane 
like a lamp, than the sad ones. Oh, the bonnie little 
dear faces! the rapture of their wellbeing and their 
happiness, all clinging round mamma with innumerable 
appeals, — the " bundle of boys," as my Maggie said with 
sweet scorn, who left no room for her arms to get round 
me, but only mine round her. I am old and desolate and 
alone, but I seem to see myself a young mother, the two 
little fellows in the big fauteuil behind me, clinging round 
my neck, and their sister at my knee. God bless them, 
and God bless them, — are they all together now ? 

We went next day, I think, in the great Messageries 
steamboat, by Genoa and Leghorn, to Civita Vecchia, 
and got to Rome in three days, with time enough in 
Genoa to get a glimpse of the town, and in Pisa next 
day, making a run from Leghorn. All was well when 
we got to Rome, where my poor brother William was 
with Robert Macpherson, helping him to sell his photo- 
graphs, and pouring out his stores of knowledge upon 
all the visitors, to good Robert's great admiration. The 
Tullochs and I got a joint-house in Capo le Case. We 
had two servants — a delightful donna da facienda, called 
Leonilda, and the only detestable Italian servant I ever 
saw, Antonio; but the two did everything for us some- 
how. We had our dinner, I think, from the Trattoria. 
And we had a month, or a little more, of pleasant life 



92 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



together. The Principal arrived from Greece— or was it 
Constantinople ? — and all was well. 

Ah me, alas ! pain ever, for ever. This has been the 
ower-word of my life. And now it burst into the murmur 
of pain again. 

Rome, 1864. 1 

I did not know when I wrote the last words that I was 
coming to lay my sweetest hope, my brightest anticipa- 
tions for the future, with my darling, in her father's grave. 
Oh this terrible, fatal, miserable Rome! I came here 
rich and happy, with my blooming daughter, my dear 
bright child, whose smiles and brightness everybody 
noticed, and who was sweet as a little mother to her 
brothers. There was not an omen of evil in any way. Our 
leaving of home, our journey, our life here, have all been 
among the brightest passages of my life ; and my Maggie 
looked the healthiest and happiest of all the children, and 
ailed nothing and feared nothing, — nor I for her. 

Four short days made all the difference, and now here 
I am with my boys thrown back again out of the light 
into the darkness, into the valley of the shadow of death. 
My dearest love never knew nor imagined that she was 
dying; no shadow of dread ever came upon her sweet 
spirit. She got into heaven without knowing it, and 
God have pity upon me, who have thus parted with the 
sweetest companion, on whom unconsciously, more than 
on any other hope of life, I have been calculating. I 
feared from the first moment her illness began, and yet 
I had a kind of underlying conviction that God would not 
take my ewe-lamb, my woman-child from me. 

The hardest moment in my present sad life is the 
morning, when I must wake up and begin the dreary 
world again. I can sleep during the night, and I sleep 
as long as I can ; but when it is no longer possible, when 

1 These pages, written in Rome at the moment of her bitter grief for the 
loss of her daughter, seem most suitably inserted here, though Mrs Oliphant 
left them detached.— Ed. 



THE MYSTERY OF THE "UNSEEN." 



93 



the light can no longer be gainsaid, and life is going on 
everywhere, then I, too, rise up to bear my burden. 
How different it used to be I When I was a girl I 
remember the feeling I had when the fresh morning light 
came round. Whatever grief there had been the night 
before, the new day triumphed over it. Things must be 
better than one thought, must be well, in a world which 
woke up to that new light, to the sweet dews and sweet 
air which renewed one's soul. Now I am thankful for 
the night and the darkness, and shudder to see the light 
and the day returning. 

The Principal calls " In Memorian " an embodiment of 
the spirit of this age, which he says does not know what 
to think, yet thinks and wonders and stops itself, and 
thinks again; which believes and does not believe, and 
perhaps, I think, carries the human yearning and longing 
farther than it was ever carried before. Perhaps my own 
thoughts are much of the same kind. I try to realise 
heaven to myself, and I cannot do it. The more I think 
of it, the less I am able to feel that those who have left 
us can start up at once into a heartless beatitude without 
caring for our sorrow. Do they sleep until the great day ? 
Or does time so cease for them that it seems but a matter 
of hours and minutes till we meet again ? God who is 
Love cannot give immortality and annihilate affection; 
that surely, at least, we must take for granted — as sure 
as they live they live to love us. Human nature in the 
flesh cannot be more faithful, more tender, than the 
purified human soul in heaven. Where, then, are they, 
those who have gone before us ? Some people say around 
us, still knowing all that occupies us ; but that is an idea I 
cannot entertain either. It would not be happiness but 
pain to be beside those we love yet unable to com- 
municate with them, unable to make ourselves known. 

........ 

The world is changed, and my life is darkened ; and all 
that I can do is to take desperate hold of this one 
certainty, that God cannot have done it without reason. 



94 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



I can get no farther. Sometimes such a longing comes 
upon me to go and seek somebody, as I used to go to 
Frank to the studio in the old times. But I have nobody 
now: my friends are very sorry for me; but there is 
nobody in the world who has a right to share my grief, 
to whom my grief belongs, as it does to myself — and that 
is what one longs for. Sympathy is sweet, but sympathy 
is for lighter troubles. When it is a grief that rends one 
asunder, one's longing is for the other — the only other 
whose heart is rent asunder by the same stroke. For me, 
I have all the burden to bear myself. My brother Frank 
writes very kindly, speaking as if it were his sorrow too ; 
but oh, do I not know he will go back among his 
unbroken family, and feel all the more glad in his heart 
for the contrast of my affliction, and thank God the 
more ! I don't blame him. I would, perhaps, have 
done the same. Here is the end of all. I am alone. I 
am a woman. I have nobody to stand between me and 
the roughest edge of grief. All the terrible details have 
to come to me. I have to bear the loss, the pang 
unshared. My boys are too little to feel it, and there is 
nobody else in the world to divide it with me. O Lord, 
Thou wouldest not have done it but for good reason ! 
Stand by the forlorn creature who fainteth under Thy 
hand, but whom Thou sufferest not to die. 



95 



IV. 

1894- 

On the 27th of January 1864 my dear little Maggie 
died of gastric fever. I have written about it all else- 
where. I had escaped, I thought, from the valley of 
the shadow of death, and had been happy, in sheer 
force of youth and health and the children: now I was 
plunged again under the salt and bitter waves. I laid 
her by her father, and it seemed to me that all light 
and hope were gone from me for ever. Up to five 
years ago I could not say her dear name without the 
old pang coming back ; since then, when there came to 
be another to bury in my heart, my little girl seemed 
all at once to become a tranquil sweet recollection ; and 
now that all are gone she is but a dear shadow, far in 
the background, while my boys take up in death as in 
life the whole of the darkened scene. All three gone, 
and only I left behind! I must try not to dwell on 
that here. There is enough of distracted thoughts and 
fancies elsewhere. I have never ventured to go back 
to Rome. I dared not while I had still the boys to 
think of. Twice fatal to us, I did not venture to face 
it a third time. I used to say that if I knew I had a 
fatal disease, or was sure that they needed me no 
longer, I would go by myself, and would be happy to 
die there, but never that they should go. I feel as if 
I should like to go now, but not to die there, for I 
must, if it is possible, lie beside my Cyril and Cecco 
at Eton. But this belongs to a later time. 



96 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



We left Rome in May, the party still together, the 
Tullochs and I. I felt that if I left them then I could 
never bear to see them again; and thus it was that 
Sara and Fanny Tulloch were left with me for a year, 
their parents returning home. I remember very little 
in Rome. The people I met there, the things I saw, 
seemed all wiped out of my mind, except some strange 
broken scenes. The first week after that calamity 
Geddie took me out to Frascati, to their house there, 
for a little change; and I never can forget the aspect 
of that summer place, where we had once lived through 
the hot July and August, in the desolation of the winter 
and of my misery. We were on the upper storey of a 
great cold Italian house, the cold penetrating to the 
heart, cold such as never was seen or felt surely in the 
North, — no servants, no comforts, sitting crying over 
the fire through a dismal day or two in a great, gaunt, 
half-empty room, my heart breaking for the children. 
It did not last long, but I have never forgotten these 
dismal days. There is another day in my memory 
like a dream. It was then March, and we had gone to 
Albano and were living there. The Macphersons came 
out to visit us, and, as they could never be without 
company, asked some of their friends out from Rome 
on the Sunday to go to Nemi. Then, finding how I 
shrank from the strangers, Robert took me through 
the woods, — a wonderful, wild, beautiful way, — leading 
my donkey to the place where we were to dine. I 
recollect a kind of soothing in the sensation of the 
spring, the wild freshness of the wood ; a party of 
charcoal-burners, whose encampment we passed, appear 
to me like a picture, — wild men, not safe to meet, but 
my kind old Robert knew them all and their dialect 
and their ways. Nemi, the wonderful blue lake, bound 
within the circle of its deep banks, and an old Palazzo 
with frescoed rooms looking sheer down into the won- 
derful metallic water, which looked something like 
molten sapphires, but of a warmer colour. I had half 



PARIS. 



97 



a mind, I remember, to take an appartatnento in that 
house, and throw myself into the rut of artist life, 
though my instincts were not of that kind, — a life not 
exactly disorderly, but a little wild and wandering and 
gregarious. I wonder, if I had stayed at Nemi, and 
brought the boys up so — how bewildering the thought 
is of things one might have done. 

After that we went to Naples and Capri, where we 
stayed a long time and got to know all the guides and 
people, riding about every day over all the lower island 
and up to Anacapri — all like a dream. And Sentella, 
the good hunchback maid whose face the Principal 
said was so full of moral beauty, and Feliciello, who 
was not by any means so good, but whom we liked 
and petted. I wrote, I think, a little sketch of it 
afterwards, called " Life on an Island," or some such 
name, in 'Blackwood.' 1 

In May we left Rome finally and moved northward 
to the Lake of Como, where we stayed at Bellaggio; 
then into Switzerland, where we spent the summer, 
chiefly on the Lake of Geneva; then to Paris, where 
we passed the winter. The Principal and the padrona 
had gone home long before, and my party in Paris con- 
sisted of my two little boys, the two girls, Sara and 
Fanny, Jane, and a Swiss - French governess, Made- 
moiselle Pricam, whom we had picked up at Montreux. 
In Paris we got a cheerful apartment on the Champs 
Elys€es, the sunny side. It was at the height of the 
gaiety and prosperity of the Empire, and I used to 
say that the sight of all the gay stream of life from 
the windows, all the fine people coming and going, the 
brightness and the movement, were a kind of salvation 
to me in that dark and clouded time. I remember 
going off to St Germain to spend the first anniversary 
of ray Maggie's death, taking my delightful boy with 
me; and the dark gloomy evening after I had put him 
to bed in the inn, once more sitting desolate and 

1 " life on an Island," ' Maga,' January 1865. 
G 



9 8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



crying over the fire; but next morning the terrace 
in the wintry sunshine, and all the thoughts that came 
to one then, and still more the going back to the 
cheerful rooms in Paris, which were a kind of home, 
and my other dear little fellow rushing with his shout 
of welcome to mamma, brought a little sunshine back; 
though it was not till the 4th of April after that, when 
I found the rooms crowded with flowers which they 
had all gone out to get for me on my birthday before 
I was up, that I began to feel as if I had passed 
again from death into life. I took them all out 
to St Cloud in reward for their flowers, and they 
were all so gay, and the morning and the drive so 
bright. 

In Paris I saw a good deal of the Montalemberts. 
I have described how I translated the Count's book when 
I first went to Scotland after my widowhood. He had 
been pleased with it, I don't know why, for it was badly 
done ; and by John Blackwood's desire and introduction 
came to see me in Paris, and I dined there once or 
twice, though under protest, for I had never gone any- 
where or cared to see anybody. There was one party 
I remember which was interesting, where were PrSvost- 
Paradol and some other literary people. I was too 
shy and out of my element to make much of them, 
and have never been proud of my French; so I did 
not get the good I ought out of this glimpse of society. 
On one occasion Miss Blackwood, who came to Paris 
and paid me a long visit, was with me, — a little alarm- 
ing in her large bare shoulders in the small party with 
the other ladies all decorously covered. There was, I 
remember, a pretty graceful Madame L'Abbadie, whose 
husband came up to me, a man with a dreadful brogue, 
and said, "I speak English better than Montalembert ; 
the reason is I am born in Dublin, and he is born in 
London." Montalembert's English was delightful, per- 
fect in accent and idiom ; I don't remember any mistake 



COUNT DE MONTALEMBERT. 



99 



of his except the amusing and flattering one with which 
he expressed his surprise when we first met to find me 
"not so respectable " as he had supposed. I daresay 
it was a mistake made on purpose; for to be sure I 
was still young, and perhaps, in the still lingering exal- 
tation of my sorrow and the tears that were never far off 
from my eyes, looked younger than I was. It was then 
1865, and I must have been thirty-seven, and had grey 
hair. Montalembert himself was, I think, one of the 
most interesting men I ever met. He had that curious 
mixture of the — shall I say? — supernaturalist and man 
of the world (not mystic, he was no mystic, but yet 
miraculous, if there is any meaning in that) which has 
always had so great an attraction for me, — keen and 
sharp as a sword, and yet open to every belief and to 
every superstition, far more than I ever could have 
been, who looked at him and up to him with a sort 
of admiring wonder and yet sympathy, not without a 
smile in it He was a little like Laurence Oliphant 
in this, but Laurence was not a highly educated man 
like Montalembert. M. de Montalembert struck me as 
the most delightful, benign, and genial of men when 
I saw him first; but afterwards I used to say that 
he was one of the few men I was afraid of, and that 
he had a fine way of picking one up as on some pol- 
ished pair of tongs, and holding one up to the admir- 
ation of the world around, in all the bloom of one's 
foolishness. I remember on one occasion, when there 
was great talk of vacant fauteuils in the Acad^mie, and 
of the candidates, two of whom in particular were being 
discussed, I asked him, rather sillily, whether there were 
two vacancies or two candidates for one vacancy — some- 
thing of that sort, — when he turned to the company and 
called their attention to the orderly, temperate, English 
mind, in which there was no rush at a prize, but a well- 
balanced competition of two, as I had suggested. There 
was a great deal of laughter, in which, of course, any 



100 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



shy explanation of mine was completely drowned. I 
doubt whether an Englishman of equally fine manners 
would have held up a French stranger to the gentle 
ridicule of the company in this way. And yet I always 
liked him in the midst of my alarm, and he was very 
kind. I gave him the ' Life of Irving/ with a little 
protest, which was quite true, that it was not because 
I had written it, but because of the man Irving that 
I wished him to read it, which protest he received 
with a little banter and look of seeing through me ; but 
afterwards avowed that he was touched by the character 
of Irving and its truth, mightily apart as it was from 
all his own prepossessions, which were so strong, how- 
ever, that he could not bear Scotland, — could not even 
persuade himself to permit the glamour of Sir Walter 
to excuse the black anti - Catholic desolation of that 
dreadful country, all but Iona. Happening to speak 
of Carlyle, he expressed great dislike for him. I had 
mentioned that unfortunately Carlyle had no children. 
"Why unfortunately?" said Montalembert ; "happily, 
rather, for he was not a man to have the bringing 
up of children." I made some sort of indignant reply, 
but added, " I don't believe in education." He paused 
a moment, laughed, and said, "Neither do I." Carlyle 
had an equal dislike of him, and shot forth a thunder- 
bolt at him on one occasion when I mentioned him ; 
but spoke of Lamennais in a half tender tone, — " There 
is no hairm in him, no hairm in him," he said. Lamen- 
nais was tragic from the Montalembert point of view, 
— a name to be spoken of with bated breath. 

It was Count de Montalembert who gave me tickets 
for one of the side chapels in Notre Dame, where Pere 
F6lix was preaching to men during Lent, — a scene I have 
described somewhere, and which I read a description 
of lately in the life of Mrs Craven. The nave was packed 
closely with men, a dark mass, their immovable feces 
whitening the whole surface of that great area under 



NOTRE DAME. 



IOI 



the not abundant lights, and the spare figure of the 
monk in the pulpit, his face whiter still, like ivory. It 
was very dark in the side chapels, and we did not hear 
very well ; but the sight was very impressive, and specially 
so on, I think, the Thursday of Holy Week, when this 
immense crowd of men sang the Stabat Mater in unison, 
— the most wonderful volume of sound, which was quite 
overwhelming in the depth and strength of it, rolling 
like a kind of regulated and tempered thunder, or like 
the sound of many waters, — a perfectly new and extra- 
ordinary effect, (I remember finding out afterwards, 
to my great confusion, that these tickets had been given 
to me only for one night, and that I had kept other 
people out of them — the sort of horrible ridiculous want 
of sense which makes one hot all over when one dis- 
covers it.) 

On the Easter morning we went very early to Notre 
Dame to see the communion of these men, which was 
also a very touching sight. There was an old lady in 
the gallery where we were who looked down all the time, 
crying and talking to herself, " Dix soldats — et un petit 
bon homme en blouse." I, more profane, smiled a little, 
and was a little ashamed of myself for doing so, at the 
air of conscious solemnity with which most of the men 
came up to the altar, very devout, but yet with a cer- 
tain sense of forming part of a very great and ennobling 
spectacle. 

I made little of the ladies of the Montalembert house- 
hold on this occasion, my attention being chiefly attracted 
to him. The girls were quite young, and I did not see 
enough of them to make friends as afterwards with 
Madame de Montalembert, — a person to whom it is diffi- 
cult to do justice in words, the fine, ample, noble Fla- 
mande, grande dame au bout des ongles, ready and capable 
to do anything in the world of which there might be 
need, to defend a castle, or light a fire, or nurse the 
sick, but helplessly unable to "do" her own hair, — a 



102 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



characteristic failure which amused me much when I 
found it out, which was not, however, till much later. 
As usual I did not make half the use of my opportunities 
which I ought to have done, was shy of going to see 
them, and held back generally after my fashion, which 
I always regret afterwards. I am not sure that I ever 
saw Montalembert again. 

At the other end of the social scale we picked up a 
curious pair in Paris,— a man who was an Oxford man, 
far from a refined specimen, indeed, who advertised in 
' Galignani ' for pupils, and whom I engaged to begin my 
boy with Latin. He came, I think, every morning, 
and Cyril, aged eight, began his serious education under 
him. He was of a species of which I saw various speci- 
mens later, — the half rustic, half vulgar son of a country 
clergyman, gone all wrong at the University, but not a 
bad scholar, and, above all, not a bad man — coarse, red- 
faced, perhaps a little vicious, certainly addicted to drink. 
He had a wife, a kind of falsely pretty creature, or with 
a false air of being pretty, very pink and white, with 
one leg a little shorter than the other in consequence 
of some illness, who had come to Paris to be under 
N&otan, the great doctor. There was a baby and an 
English, or rather Welsh, nurse, who stood by them 
through thick and thin, strongly disapproving of both, 
but faithful all the same. It was she, I think, probably 

through Jane, from whom we heard how the man 

had been engaged to his wife before her illness, and 
had helped to nurse her through it and made light of 
the defect it left, which he would not permit to inter- 
fere with their marriage. This prepossessed me much 
in his favour. Then came the report that she had a 
dreadful temper, and threw plates and cups at him in 
her fury, which made his good -humour and apparent 
devotion to her more touching still. Afterwards it ap- 
peared that she had a tolerable income and he not 
a penny, besides being in innumerable scrapes, which 



AN ITALIAN REFUGEE. 



IO3 



discouraged us a little. They used to come and spend 

one evening in the week with us, and I think did 

his preliminary teaching very well. Fanny was his pupil 
too, as well as Cyril ; they were both, it is true, excep- 
tional scholars. 

We had another regular evening visitor once a-week — 
a man whom, though I never saw more of him than those 
regular weekly visits, I got to think of as a dear friend, 
and I think he had the same sort of feeling for me — 
Giovanni (or, as he wrote himself, John) Ruffini, the 
author of ' Dr Antonio,' an Italian refugee of the 1848 
times, and for years a resident in London, where he 
had written that delightful book in English. His written 
English was beautiful, but he spoke it badly and with 
difficulty. He was a large mild man, with blue eyes, 
heavy-lidded and large — large externally, and specially 
remarkable when they were cast down, which sounds 
odd but was true. He lived with an English family, 
with whom he had been for years — partly brother, partly 
lover, partly guest. I did not know them, and I don't 
know the rights of the story. The father had died some 
time before, but he still kept his place among them, 
and went about with the mother of the house, both of 
them growing old with what seemed to me a delightful 
innocence and naturalness. They made their villeggiatura, 
these two together, sometimes in a couple of chalets on 
a Swiss mountain, as if there had not been such a thing 
as an evil tongue in the world, which interested me 
exceedingly; and indeed his weekly visit, his pensive 
Italian mildness, the look of the traditional exile, though 
in so perfectly natural a man, was very interesting : that 
exile look with the faint air of fiction in it, and its ab- 
solute sincerity all the same, has gone out of mortal ken 
nowadays. 

Another queer pair that I used to see were old Father 
Prout (Mahony, or O'Mahony, as he called himself) and 
the old lady about whom he circled, and who was a 



104 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



very quaint old lady indeed, with the air of having been 
somebody, — a very dauntless, plain-spoken old person 
in old shiny black satin and lace, and looking as if 
everything was put on as well as the satin — hair, teeth, 
and everything else. Peace to their ancient ashes ! — they 
were a strange pair. She — I have forgotten her name 
— came to see me, and I went to her house once in the 
evening, somewhere in the heart of Paris, up a great 
many stairs, where she had an apartment exactly like 
herself, with much dingy decoration and a great many 
curious things, and the air somehow of being dressed 
like its mistress, and scented and done up with an arti- 
ficialness which, as in the lady's case, by dint of long 
continuance had grown to be perfectly sincere. She 
bade her old gentleman sing me his great song, "The 
Bells of Shandon," which he did, standing up against 
the mantelpiece, with his pale head, like carved ivory, 
relieved against the regular garniture de cheminee, the 
big clock and candelabra. He had a fine face with 
delicate features, almost an ascetic face. He had been 
a priest, but had years before abandoned that calling and 
adopted literature in its place. He was for a time one of 
the Fraser group, which was, more or less, an imitation 
of the Blackwood group, with much real or pretended 
rivalry, and had knocked about a great deal in his life, 
and was poor. I think I heard that the old lady died, 
and that he became poorer still. 1 There were thus two 
elderly romances, in old fidelity and friendship, under 
my eyes, made innocent, almost infantile, especially in 
the latter case, as of old babies, independent of sex and 
superior to it, amid all the obliterations of old age. I 
had several curious visitors of this kind, chiefly sent to 
me, I think, by Robert Macpherson, — one of them Miss 
Cushman, the actress, whom I had met in London and 
had not liked, but who touched my heart with her 
evident deep knowledge of trouble and sorrow. I think 

1 Very shortly after the time here alluded to " Father Prout n retired to a 
monastery, where he died in 1866. 



A MIRACULOUS EASE OF MIND. 105 

I have described her and others in some other places, 
though I can't tell where. I had visitors too from 
home, — Mrs Fitzgerald, Miss Blackwood, and Principal 
Tulloch, who came to take the girls home, and in his 
turn brought some odd Scotch - cosmopolitan people. 
Not cosmopolitan, however, was the Scotch minister, 
who held his little conventicle in the Oratoire, and who 
said sturdily, and with the courage of his opinion, that 
he had not learned French, and did not mean to do so, 
as he disapproved of it altogether. 

We were about six months in Paris, in the little bright 
apartment which I remember cost over a thousand francs 
for wood and coal during that time, and was as warm as a 
nest. The party consisted of the two girls, my two dear 
little boys, — Cyril so full of wit and fun, Cecco always 
so original even in his babyhood, learning to read in 
Mademoiselle's wonderful way in a fortnight without a 
tear, — Mademoiselle herself, Jane, and a servant and a 
half — the bonne & tout faire and her child. The Champs 
ElysSes, full of sun and brightness and fine carriages, 
and all the fine people passing in a stream every after- 
noon, did me much good, and it all bears a radiant 
aspect now as I look back, heavy though my heart 
often was. I heard then for the first time of our after- 
wards familiar and beloved cousin Annie, in reality 
a second cousin, whom I had never seen, but who 
wrote introducing herself to me, with some literary 
aspirations, taking at that time the shape of poetry, 
against which I remember I advised her, suggesting a 
novel instead. I cannot remember what I was then 
doing, nor how I was in the matter of money, but I 
presume I must have been going on with a flowing 
sail, working a great deal and not requiring to take 
much thought of my expenses, which, alas! was my 
way. I ought to have been saving, of course, but I 
didn't, with a miraculous ease of mind which some 
people have thought criminal. I sometimes think, too, 
that it was so, and also have sometimes lately (1895) 



io6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



pondered upon a sadder 1 theory still, as if that had 
something to do with the great sorrows that have 
clouded the end of my life. I never had any expensive 
tastes, but loved the easy swing of life, without taking 
much thought for the morrow, with a faith in my own 
power to go on working, which up to this time has 
been wonderfully justified, but which has been a great 
temptation and danger to me all through in the way 
of economies. I had always a conviction that I could 
make up by a little exertion for any extra expense. 
Sickness, incapacity, want of health or ability to 
work, never occurred to me, I suppose. At the same 
time, I never was very highly paid for my work, and 
perhaps this had its effect too on my carelessness in 
pecuniary matters. I made enough to carry me on 
easily, almost luxuriously, but not enough to save, never 
a large sum which could be partly put away at once 
and give one a taste of the sweetness of possessing 
something. I could not do this, and I fear it was not 
in me to practise that honourable pinching and sparing 
by which some women do so much. I had not the time 
for it, nor, indeed, I am ashamed to say, the wish. I am 
ashamed too to make the confession that I do not in the 

1 This is what I thought — that I had so accustomed them to the easy going 
on of all things, never letting them see my anxieties or know that there was 
a difficulty about anything, that their minds were formed to that habit, that 
it took all thought of necessity out of my Cyril's mind, who had always, 1 am 
sure, the feeling that a little exertion (always so easy to-morrow) would at any 
time set everything right, and that nothing was likely ever to go far wrong so 
long as I was there. The sentiment was not ungenerous, it was in a way 
forced upon him, partly by my own insouciance and partly by the fact that he 
was always saved from any practical effect of foolishness, so that at the last, 
what with the growth of habit, there was no other way for it but that, — 
"There is no way but this," words I used to say over to myself. And my 
Cecco, who had not these follies, but who was stricken by the hand of God, 
until that too rendered further going on impossible, by the drying up of my 
sources and means of getting anything for him — so that I seem sometimes to 
feel as if it were all my doing, and that I had brought by my heedlessness 
both to an impasse from which there was no issue but one. It was a kind of 
forlorn pleasure to me that they had never wanted anything, but this turns it 
into a remorse. Who can tell ? God alone over all knows, and works by our 
follies as well as our better ways. Must it not be at last to the good of all ? 



NORMANDY. 



I07 



least remember what I was working at at this time. It 
is not that I have ever been indifferent to my work. I 
have always been most grateful to God that it was work 
I liked and that interested me in the doing of it, and it 
has often carried me away from myself and quenched, 
or at least calmed, the troubles of life. But perhaps my 
life has been too full of personal interests to leave me 
at leisure to talk of the creatures of my imagination, 
as some people do, or to make believe that they were 
more to me in writing than they might have been in 
reading — that is, my own stories in the making of them 
were very much what other people's stories (but these 
the best) were in the reading. I am no more interested 
in my own characters than I am in Jeanie Deans, and do 
not remember them half so well, nor do they come back 
to me with the same steady interest and friendship. 
Perhaps people will say this is why they never laid 
any special hold upon the minds of others, though they 
might be agreeable reading enough. But this does not 
mean that I was indifferent to the work as work, or 
did not beat it out with interest and pleasure. It 
pleases me at this present moment, I may confess, 
that I seem to have found unawares an image that 
quite expresses what I mean — i.e., that I wrote as I 
read, with much the same sort of feeling. It seems 
to me that this is rather an original way of putting it 
(to disclose the privatest thought in my mind), and 
this gives me an absurd little sense of pleasure. 

We left Paris in the summer — my little boys, the 
governess, Jane, and I. I did not want to go back 
to England till the end of the year, and we strayed 
about a little. The tutor aforesaid and his wife had 
taken a house in Normandy with the intention of hav- 
ing boarders, and there it occurred to me to go for a 
short time — especially while Jane went home for her 
holiday. The house called itself the Chateau de Mon- 
thly, which sounded well. It was, however, a new 
square house in a garden, without any attractions what- 



io8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



ever; and the unfortunate pair were rather insufferable 
at such close quarters, and I was very thankful to get 
away in about a fortnight — staying that time merely 
for decency's sake. Mr Story, who was in Paris, came 
down to visit me, I remember ; and we went to see 
Bayeux and the tapestry, jogging along in a country 
shandrydan with a huge red umbrella. That fact and 
a wonderful thunderstorm there was — which he and I 
sat at an open window to watch, much to the annoy- 
ance and terror of our hosts, who would have liked to 
shut it out with bolted shutters — are about all I recol- 
lect, except the discomfort of the forced stay with 
people totally out of my way and kind, and the little 
meannesses of the household, and the annoyed interest 
we began to take in what there would be for dinner 
as soon as we discovered that the fare was sure to be 
scanty and bad. We escaped as soon as we could, 
having taken in a few views of French village life, 
and made the discovery that to take out an ill-tempered 

Mrs for a little diversion — even if it were no more 

exciting than a Norman fair, and the drive thereto in 
a carriole — was good for her soul's health, poor thing, 
and cleared the skies. I am a little hazy about what 
followed. We went to Avranches, to the little country 
town hotel, where the good people of the place came 
in to dine, and tied their dinner napkins round their 
half-finished bottles of wine; and we went to Mont St 
Michel, which delighted me, and where I had half a 
mind to take one of the many empty houses left by 
the prison officials when it ceased to be a prison. One 
imposing white house dominating the village I was told 
I could have for a hundred francs a-year ! There would 
have been economy, and a certain amount of interest 
and picturesque surroundings, but the sea and the vast 
sands were very grey. We bivouacked in an almost 
empty house, containing little but what are called box- 
beds in Scotland, and a table and chair or two, which 
belonged to an old priest, very snuffy and shabby, who 



A RASH ADVENTURE. 



109 



was called M. L'Aumonier, and had, I suppose, filled 
that office in the economy of the great prison, though 
I don't quite know what office it is. He took me to 
window after window to show me little shelves of garden 
which he had on the slopes of the rock — one here and 
another there, but each provided with certain conveni- 
ences, on which the good man insisted much. The 
first night there I was seized by a sudden panic to find 
that I had lodged myself and my helpless little party 
in the midst of a strange, unknown, and rather rough 
community — in a house which had not a key even to 
its outer door, — and sat up till daylight to watch over 
them. The light reassured me, and the thought of my 
big and dauntless Jane, who was worth two men, and 
who would have faced an army for her two little boys. 
Oh, my little boys ! and the happiness of watching 
over them and all their ways and sayings, though I 
was sad enough then, thinking there was no sadder 
mother, longing for my Maggie wherever I went. 

We spent a long time at St Adresse, near Havre, in 
a house which belonged to Queen Christina of Spain, 
where there was capital sea-bathing; and the children, 
or at least Cyril, began to learn to swim, and enjoyed 
themselves in all the amusements of the sea-side. One 
half tragic experience we had. Setting out to row, I 
and my little man, only eight, with a recklessness which 
I shiver now to think of, we were caught by the current, 
and had not our plight been seen from the shore and 
a man sent after us, I don't know what might have 
happened. The current was well known, only not to 
me, newly arrived and, as it appeared, very imprudent. 
We had rowed a great deal on the Gairloch, and we 
were close inshore, and the shining sunlit water looked 
like burnished glass or gold, or both. Mademoiselle 
was with us, and as bold as a little stout Swiss lion. 
I had luck in that way at least. How much would have 
been spared if that boat had drifted out to sea ! many 
years' toil coming to so little, many years' misery and 



no 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



sorrow, though many happy too — and this long tragedy 
at the end! To have ended all together under that 
rippled sheet of gold, what an escape from all that came 
after! But it would have been hard on Mademoiselle 
and her old mother at Lausanne. It makes one's head 
go round, however, to think how little difference it would 
have made had such a little catastrophe taken place, 
and made a paragraph in the papers, — an innocent, not 
undesirable, not unlovely catastrophe, all over sweetly 
and suddenly that has taken so many years to get over, 
and yet is over or soon will be : how little important to 
any one else ! probably so much better for ourselves ! 
I feel a kind of envy now of the situation and of the 
possibility — but this is all so vain. 

I suppose it must have been after St Adresse that 
we went to St Malo, where the delightful bay, crowded 
with rocky islets and downy white sails, delighted me. 
We found a small cabin of a house on the very edge of 
the cliff at Dinard, which was then a little village, very 
primitive and quiet, whence we crossed to St Malo in a 
small boat with a big sail, — always somewhat alarming 
to me, notwithstanding my rash boating. It was called 
the bateau de poissage, I remember, in the Norman-French 
that always sounded to me like Scotch. We had a noble 
Marie for our bonne, a woman with the finest thoughtful 
face, whom I had photographed in her beautiful cap, in 
spite of her protestations that it would have been much 
better to take her niece, a commonplace, pretty little 
girl. Probably they do not wear those caps now, in 
which they looked like medieval princesses, wandering 
after the procession of the Fete Dieu, which took place 
while we were there. But these are all very trivial 
recollections. I remember being extremely touched by 
the playing of the local band in the Dinard church, 
I suppose on this occasion. They played where the 
anthem would come in in the English service, and what 
they played was Ah che la morte, and other airs from 
the "Trovatore," which shocked me at first into the 



A PLEASANT COACHING JOURNEY. Ill 

usual English sense of superiority, and then affected me 
greatly with the thought that it was absolutely the best 
thing they could do which they were offering to God, 
whether very worthy or not, and what could the finest 
genius do more? My other best recollection is of the 
country doctor, whom I called to see my dear little 
Cecco in some illness, just enough to make an anxious 
woman more anxious, and who laughed and prescribed 
the galette of the place, a kind of cracknel, and confiture 
and cider, the drink of the place. I could have hugged 
him for his laugh, which proved how little was the 
matter, and administered the cracknel and the jam, but 
not the cider, which was sour. So little a thing dwells 
on one's mind, but it was not little at that moment, 
when these infantile vicissitudes were the most import- 
ant matters in life. 

We had rather a wild, rather a wearisome, but in some 
ways an amusing, journey from St Malo to Boulogne. 
There was a boat direct from St Malo, which, if I had 
been a wise woman, I should have taken, and so got 
home quite cheaply. But I had a great dislike to the 
sea; and with some compunction for the expense and 
more pleasure in the adventure, — though adventure there 
was really none, except that the manner of the journey 
was by that time a little out of the way, — we set off by 
land. So far as I remember, we went sixty miles the 
first day, if that is possible, but I don't recollect where 
we halted or how many days we took to the journey 
altogether. We started with that perfect ignorance of 
where we were going, and perfect confidence that every- 
thing would go well, which, I suppose, is peculiar to 
women (when they are not nervous and timorous). The 
carriage was packed with toys and books and all kinds 
of things for the children, and the progress through the 
air, the little exhilaration of the start, the glimpse of 
village interiors as we rattled past, the arrivals and 
departures, were quite enough amusement for me. I 
suppose Mademoiselle must have liked it too, for she 



112 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



threw herself completely into the frolic. And as for 
Jane, it was all in the day's work to her. I think we 
passed one night at Granville. I remember distinctly 
that we all lunched in the middle of the day at an 
unknown and nameless village, upon potatoes en robe 
de chambre, which Mademoiselle sagely advised as a 
thing we could be quite sure of, whereas other dishes 
might be doubtful, and the fragrant tray of fresh sponge 
biscuits, taken warm and sweet out of the oven while we 
were there and added to our meal as desert, which made 
me feel that the capabilities of the place were greater 
than we thought. The rush across a broad level of 
country without many features was monotonous in the 
end ; but the quiet and fresh air, and long silences and 
sense of progress, were all soothing and pleasant. I have 
a kind of shadowy recollection of the journey, like a 
dream, that is refreshing still. We spent a day or two in 
Dieppe, intending at first to take the boat there, but having 
got into the habit of driving, with the old delightful con- 
nections of the vetturino coming back, we finally decided 
to continue our drive along the coast to Boulogne, and, 
though we did not deserve it, were rewarded at last by 
the smoothest of passages across the Channel — a thing 
which in those days I always dreaded. We found rooms 
in London in the Bayswater Road, opposite Kensington 
Gardens — a place I have always liked ; and then I set to 
work to find a home for us, where there should be means 
of education for the boys. My mind was at first in- 
clined for Harrow, but something, I forget what, induced 
me to come to Windsor, which captivated me at once. 
Either then or later I wrote a letter to Mr Warre, now 
the Head Master, then young and " rising," whom I 
found very agreeable, and who decided, but with some 
reluctance, that it might be possible to educate my sons 
at Eton in all respects like the other boys there, but sleep- 
ing at home ; which possibility, combined with the beauty 
of the river and the castle, and the air of cheerful life 
about, decided me very quickly to settle here. And a 



WINDSOR. 



113 



house was found very quickly ; not this in which I now 
sit, and where almost all the events of my later life have 
taken place, but one in the same Crescent, within two 
doors of me, smaller than this. We came into it in 
November, I think, 1865. I have been here ever since. 
The house was very bright, the sun on it almost from its 
rising to its setting, a pleasant little garden behind, and 
the Crescent garden — a piece of ground of considerable 
extent, which we called, I don't know why, the planta- 
tion, beautifully planted, and, considering its position, a 
wonderful little piece of landscape gardening, — of which 
we took possession by acclamation. Very few people used 
it in these days : the day of lawn-tennis was not yet, and 
I suppose most of the people were elderly, for we had it 
almost altogether to ourselves. I never knew till a long 
time after of how much importance it was in the first 
chapter of my boys' life, this bit of town garden with its 
fine trees and wild nooks and corners. Lately my Cecco 
has told me of so many things that were done there, 
"when we were small," as he always said. It lies 
under my windows now, but I can't trust myself to go 
into it. 

Here we got to know gradually various people about. 
The Hawtreys, a family of old brothers and sisters, rela- 
tives of the old Provost Hawtrey of Eton, were in them- 
selves a very characteristic household. They lived in a 
large red-brick house near the church, the centre of an enor- 
mous connection, married brothers and sisters, nephews 
and nieces innumerable. The Windsor portion of the 
family were known universally by their Christian names, 
Stephen and Anna, Henry and Florence. They have all 
lived in my ken to be very old people, — the two first 
having both died over eighty, while the younger pair still 
survive, still ascending towards the snows. It was a 
house full of entertainment, of family gatherings, Christ- 
mas festivities, in which the overwhelming atmosphere 
of Hawtreyism pervaded everything. They were all 
kind naturally, but anything so bland as John Hawtrey, 

H 



U4 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



who was an Eton master, or so effusively benignant as 
old Stephen, I never saw. The last was full of schemes, 
almost always benevolent, always more or less as people 
thought, profitable, as exemplified in certain transactions 
which are not worth telling, which were mere gossip, 
though if I had time or was sure to give pain to nobody, 
they were not without amusing points. A wicked wag 
at Eton declared that Stephen got up in the morning 
to build the walls of his new mathematical school out of 
the materials which were lying ready for more slothful 
workmen to build Mr Somebody's house hard by, — a story 
everybody laughed at as ben trovato, though I cannot say 
I ever knew these good people to do anything to the dis- 
advantage of their neighbours. They were good people, 
whether or no. They had all kinds of parties contin- 
ually going on, — dinner-parties, garden-parties, musical- 
parties. In one of the last a family quartette played 
what was rather new and terrible to me, long sonatas and 
concerted pieces, which filled my soul with dismay. It is 
a dreadful confession to make, and proceeds from want of 
education and instruction, but I fear any appreciation of 
music I have is purely literary. I love a song and a 
" tune " ; the humblest fiddler has sometimes given me the 
greatest pleasure, and sometimes gone to my heart ; but 
music properly so called, the only music that many 
of my friends would listen to, is to me a wonder and a 
mystery. My mind wanders through andantes and 
adagios, gaping, longing to understand. Will no one 
tell me what it means ? I want to find the old unhappy 
far - off things or battles long ago, which Wordsworth 
imagined in the Gaelic song. I feel out of it, uneasy, 
thinking all the time what a poor creature I must be. I 
remember the mother of the sonata players approaching 
me with beaming countenance on the occasion of one 
of those performances, expecting the compliment which 
I faltered forth, doing my best not to look insincere. 
" And I have that every evening of my life ! " cried the 
triumphant woman. "Good heavens! and you have 



AUNT NfcLLY. 



survived it all this time," was my internal comment. I 
can see the kind glow on her face and the mother's pride, 
and thought myself, I am glad to say, a very poor 
creature to be left so helplessly behind, though not with- 
out a rueful amusement too. 

I had a little neighbour in one of the smaller Crescent 
houses, whom the children soon got to call Aunt Nelly, 
and I " Little Nelly," — I hardly know why, unless for 
the too perfect reason that she was Nelly and very little, 
which of course was much too simple to be the true 
meaning of the name. She it was who, dying in her 
sleep without so much as the movement of a finger — 
little happy woman, always of the an^el kind — put the 
story, if story it can be called, of " The Little Pilgrim " 
into my mind. Many simple people here had a sort of 
grotesque notion that there was something of her in it 
more than the suggestion, as if, alas ! it were possible to 
follow and describe the ways of those who are gone. 
She was far from being wise or clever, generally reputed 
rather a silly little woman ; but with a heart of gold, 
and a straightforward, simple, right judgment, which 
was always to me like the clear shining of a tiny light. 
She was, perhaps, a silly little woman, in fact, in some 
ways. There are kinds of foolishness I like for my own 
part, as there is also a kind of benignant gentle dulness 
which always soothes me, and which I constantly recom- 
mend as so good a relief from the intellectualism some of 
my friends love ; but then they do love the intellectual, 
and I don't — much. My little Nelly had been trained 
to be unselfish, which, being far better than unselfish 
without training, was the only little fictitious trait in her 
— but so superficial and innocent. I often point the 
moral to the girls of that kind of technical unselfishness, 
by telling how little Nelly on a muddy road exhausted 
herself in finding a dry part for me, while she hobbled 
through the mud, as if I was to be outdone in that cheap 
generosity ! But the woman was of the angel kind, and 
breathed goodness round her. She was the guardian, 



Ii6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



when I first knew her, of an old, old mother, whose 
head and memory were gone, and of a brother with a 
nervous disease — a poor man cast out of life in the 
middle of his days, and feeling himself to the bottom 
of his heart a cumberer of the soil. Her life was spent 
in amusing and caring for these two invalids, playing 
cards for hours with them. My little Cecco used to 
go in the evening, rather proud of being wanted, seven 
or eight years old, in his little velvet suit, to make the 
fourth at whist, and when he was a man would speak 
of the long whist " which was Aunt Nelly's way." The 
invalid brother was rarely visible, but sometimes I found 
a bouquet of flowers laid on my balcony, which was low 
enough to be reached from outside, which he laid there, 
stealing unnoticed into the garden. 

Both these poor people died after long years, and left 
my little Nelly free — to take other burdens on her 
shoulders, and save other wounded creatures of God. 
Once when I was in great straits, and very anxious 
and unhappy, I asked her to help me in praying for 
the great boon I desired. I am not of the kind who 
do that usually, and perhaps when the trouble had been 
softened away I forgot even that I had done it; but 
thinking of it all years after, in the great and deep joy 
of knowing that the change I desired had come to pass, 
though without knowing what had led to it, I suddenly 
remembered how in my trouble I had sought her help, 
and it seemed to me like a flash of light upon the road 
by which we had come, not knowing. I have never 
asked any one else to do that for me. 

Notwithstanding, she was the object of perpetual 
banter in the house. There was almost always some 
current joke about what little Nelly had done or said, 
at which she herself was the first to laugh. How many 
of those foolish, dear, affectionate mockeries I remember ! 
Not mockeries — the word is too harsh: the ring of the 
laughter, the shining of the young eyes, and the light in 
her own, as beautiful as the youngest eyes among them, 



THE DESERTED HOUSE. 



117 



worn and faded as she was, are as fresh as ever. I wonder 
sometimes if what has been ever dies ! Should not I find 
them all round the old whist-table, and my Cecco, with 
his bright face and the great blue vein that showed on 
his temple, proud to be helping to amuse the old people, 
if I were but bold enough to push into the deserted house 
and look for them now? I have so often felt, with a 
bewildered dizziness, as if that might be. 

Then there was another near neighbour, one whom I 
have seen to-day, who lives on as I do, lonely and for- 
lorn, with all the elements in her then of a brilliant life, 
— clever, witty, pretty, a woman not to be passed over, 
and who, had her lot fallen otherwise, might have filled 
any position almost, and perhaps been a leader of 
society, had life been more auspicious to her. When 
I knew her first she lived in one of the most import- 
ant houses in the place, with a delightful old mother, 
in a delightful house and much apparent comfort. She 
had a handsome son in London, a beautiful daughter 
who had made a distinguished marriage abroad. She 
herself had read a great deal, was an accomplished 
musician, spoke the purest French, knew foreign society 
tolerably well, and had been one of the "county" 
people more or less, but when I knew her first was 
very lonely, not in perfect intelligence either with son 
or daughter, and either negligent or frettingly, insuffer- 
ably kind and anxious over her mother. I don't know, 
and have never desired to know, notwithstanding the 
eagerness of many people to inform me, what her past 
had been. It was not the least a past such as is now 
meant when a woman with a past is spoken of, but 
there had been some foolish rash attempt to secure 
a very brilliant marriage at home for the beautiful 
daughter, which had prejudiced the little society about 
against her, and she was very solitary, her mother old 
and an invalid, one of the prettiest and most charming 
old ladies possible, with a delightful endowment of Irish 
wit ; but there was to her mind certainly nobody who was 



n8 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



in the least her equal in her way. There are some people 
who never get any credit for what is good in them, and 
some who get too much credit. My friend was one of 
those who are never done justice to, and indeed, if one 
may say it, did not deserve to be done justice to, if such 
a contradiction were ever true. She thought or saicl that 
she had been more than done justice to in the former 
part of her life, — that she had been admired, followed, 
and adored with more than her share of devotion ; and 
indeed this might have been quite true, for she must 
have been beautiful when she was young, and full of a 
sparkle of wit and cleverness and accomplishments. But 
certainly there was very little of this in the latter part 
of her life, though she was still a pretty woman at forty- 
five, and infinitely superior to many of those who had 
no good word for her. It might be because she was 
abandoned by her fine friends, or it might be that she 
found something sympathetic in me, who have always 
been a very good listener, and apt to admire and be 
interested in attractive people, but she fell into a great 
intimacy with me, and used to spend at least half of 
her time in my house. I believed at first, of course, 
all she told me of the unkindness of others : some of it 
was true ; some of it, it became apparent in the course 
of years, was not true, or at least not all true, though 
probably she was not aware of this, and took her own 
part always with a zeal and vehemence which made 
her feel everybody else more completely in the wrong 
than it is safe to believe everybody who is against 
one can be. She had not the merry heart which goes 
all the way, the happy blood that Mrs Craven speaks 
of; and yet she had a certain version of the merry 
heart, and threw herself into all the little entertainments 
and pleasures which I gradually began to be drawn 
into, by reason of the household of girls I soon had. 
Cousin Annie, whom I did not know before, drifted to- 
wards me almost as soon as I came to Windsor, and as 
she was an orphan without a home, stayed with me for a 



AMATEUR THEATRICALS. 



119 



number of years ; and Sara and Fanny Tulloch paid me 
long visits ; and my boys began to spring up and carried 
me aJong on the stream of their rising life. My neigh- 
bour threw herself into all we did, and we soon began 
to do a great deal. It makes me wonder, looking back, 
how, after the despair of my grief, which found so much 
utterance, I should have risen again into absolute gaiety 
thus, twice over. But so it was. I thought it was for 
the young people round me, and no doubt it was so, but 
equally without doubt my own life burst forth again 
with an obstinate elasticity which I could not keep 
down. The merry heart goes all the way. I worked 
very hard all the time, but could always spare a day 
or any amount of evenings to please the girls, still 
more to please the boys. For the children, after my 
Cyril went to Eton, we began to have theatricals, which 
grew into more and more importance, till we used to 
play Shakespeare and Moliere in my little drawing-room, 
alternating with innocent versions of " Barbe Bleue," 
&c, but that in the earlier days. I never attempted 
any performance myself but once, that of Mrs Hard- 
castle in " She Stoops to Conquer." Of course the great 
inspiration of these performances was Mr Frank Tarver, 
an Eton master, an excellent amateur actor, who, as 
he very soon fell in love with Sara, made himself prime 
minister, or, at least, master of the revels, with great 
energy, and helped to keep up the circle of amusement. 
There were others, too, full of character, and as inter- 
esting in their way as if they had been great lights in 
the literary or any other world, whom I might describe, 
and who made up a very intelligent and light-hearted 
society ; but as not one of them turned out remarkable 
in any way, I need not insist upon them. One, who 
was one of the first to break the circle, my young friend 
Captain Gun, an engineer officer stationed here, I may 
mention. He was the Tony to my Mrs Hardcastle, — a 
large plain young man, full of ability and force. Had 
he lived he would, no doubt, have come to something. 



120 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



He had the readiness and resource of a soldier, seeing 
in a moment in a way that seemed magic to me where 
there was any kind of danger. I remember in Romney 
lock, in the dusk of a summer night, a sudden incompre- 
hensible movement of his which filled me with alarm 
for a moment, as he suddenly made a step out of our 
boat, which shivered with the motion, into another close 
by and dimly seen. He had perceived that it was in 
unskilful hands, and that the bow had caught in the 
side of the lock, — a dangerous position, which his sudden 
additional weight at once remedied. This to my ignor- 
ance was wonderful, though, of course, it was the simplest 
thing in the world; but the quick sight and the quick 
action were delightful to witness, as soon as one under- 
stood them. Captain Gun married a few years later 
a lady wonderfully like Fanny, who died soon, and he 
died shortly after, on which last occasion there were some 
very curious incidents took place with the table-rapping, 
to which we had given ourselves, with much levity, for 
the moment, — the only serious experience we ever had. 

Into the midst of this half-childish gaiety there came 
a very sudden and alarming interruption. My brother 
Frank had married at the same time as I myself did, 
and had lived a very humdrum but happyish life with 
a wife who suited him, and had now four children — a 
boy and three girls. He had been in rather delicate 
health for a year or two, and had fallen into rather a 
nervous condition, his hand shaking very much so that 
it was difficult for him to write, though he still could 
do his work. For this reason I heard from them rarely, 
as Jeanie, his wife, was a bad correspondent too. One 
morning very suddenly, and in the most painful and 
disagreeable way, I heard that he had got into great 
trouble about money, and was, in fact, a ruined man. 
It was the thunderbolt out of the clear sky, which is 
always so tremendous. I spent a day of misery, expecting 
him to come to me, not knowing what to expect, and 
fearing all sorts of things. A day or two after I went 



A THUNDERBOLT FROM A CLEAR SKY. 121 

to look for him, and found him absent and his wife in 
great trouble. His health, from what I now heard, was 
altogether shattered ; and it was that as much as anything 
else which had brought his affairs into the most hopeless 
muddle, from which there seemed no escape. They 
had not very much money at any time, but what they 
had had somehow slipped through his fingers. His wife 
and I did everything we could, but that was very little. 
He was a man without an expensive taste, the most 
innocent, the most domestic of men, but what he had 
had always slipped through his fingers, as I well knew. 
Poor dear Frank ! how well I remembered the use he 
made of one of my mother's Scotch proverbs to justify 
some new small expense following a bigger one which 
he would allow to be imprudent. " Well," he would say, 
half-coaxing, half-apologetic, " what's the use of eating 
the coo and worrying [choking] on her tail ? " Alas ! 
he had choked on the tail this time without remedy, 
and the only thing to be done was to wind up the 
affairs as well as was possible, and to further the little 
family, whom he could not live without, after him, 
which was what we did accordingly, with a prompt 
action which was some relief to our heavy hearts. We 
neither of us had a word of blame on our lips or a 
thought of anger in our hearts. Frank and Nelly, the 
two elder children, came to me, and Jeanie with her 
two little girls (my two girls this many a year, and 
now the only comfort of my life) joined her husband 
in France. It was a terrible break in life, and affected 
me in many ways permanently ; but after the shock of 
seeing that chasm opening at our feet, and all their life 
shattered to pieces, everything quieted down again. The 
children were well. Oh, magic of life that made every- 
thing go smooth ! they had taken no harm. They had 
their lives before them, and unbounded possibilities of 
making everything right. I am not sure that I had not 
a sort of secret satisfaction in getting Frank, my nephew, 
into my hands, thinking, with that complacency with 



122 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



which we always look at our own doings, that I could 
now train him for something better than they had 
thought of. This was in 1868. My Cyril was twelve 
and at Eton, having his room at his tutor's, and living 
precisely like other Eton boys, though coming home to 
sleep, which was one of the greatest happinesses in 
my life. Frank was fourteen, a big strong boy. I 
planned to send him to Eton too, but coming home 
for his meals, which was much less expensive, as I 
could not afford the other for him, and it answered very 
well. He was always the best of boys, manful, and a 
steady worker. Cyril had begun to be by this time 
noted as one of the cleverest boys, far on for his age, 
and promising everything, besides the brightest, wittiest, 
most sparkling little fellow, as he always was. I used 
to make it my boast that both my boys received Frank 
as a true brother, and never would have allowed me, 
had I wished it, to give them any pleasure or advantage 
which he did not share. Nelly after a while went to 
her mother's sister, Mrs Si me, and so we all settled 
down. But it is not likely that such family details would 
be of interest to the public. 

And yet, as a matter of fact, it is exactly those family 
details that are interesting, — the human story in all its 
chapters. I have often said, however, that none of us 
with any of the strong sense of family credit which used 
to be so general, but is not so, I think, now, could ever 
really tell what were perhaps the best and most creditable 
things in our own life, since by the strange fate which 
attends us human creatures, what is most creditable to 
one is often least creditable to another. These things 
steal out ; they are divined in most cases, and then for- 
gotten. Therefore all can never be told of any family 
story, except at the cost of family honour, and that pride 
which is the most pardonable of all pride, the determina- 
tion to keep unsullied a family name. This catastrophe 
was tremendous in appearance, and yet was more or less 
a good thing for the children, whose prospects seemed to 



THE TRAGEDY OF A TELEGRAM. 



123 



be utterly ruined, — not for the parents. Poor Jeanie — 
not strong enough, I suppose, to bear what fell upon her, 
as she had not been strong enough to do anything to 
prevent it — died most unexpectedly in her sleep, in a mild 
attack of fever which excited no alarm. My brother had 
been glad to get an appointment among the employees 
of a railway that was being made, of all places in the 
world, in Hungary, and went there with his wife and 
the little girls. I forget how long they were there, — only 
a very short time. The shock of their downfall was over, 
they were more or less happy to be together, and Frank 
and Nelly were happy enough here. We had returned 
to all our little gaieties again, our theatricals, — our boat- 
ing, and the rest, — without much thought on my part, 
I fear, of the additional responsibility I had upon me 
of another boy to educate and set out in the world. We 
were all assembled, a merry party enough, one summer 
evening, after an afternoon on the river, at a late meal, 
— a sort of supper, — when a telegram was put into my 
hand. I remember the look of the long table and 
all the bright faces round it, the pretty summer dishes, 
salad, and pink salmon, and ornamented sweet things, 
and many flowers, the men and boys in their flannels, 
the girls in their light summer dresses, — everything light 
and bright. I have often said that it was the only tele- 
gram I ever received without a certain tremor of anxiety. 
Captain Gun, who was there, had been uncertain of his 
coming on this particular day, and a good many telegrams 
on that subject had been passing between us. I held the 
thing in my hand and looked across at him, and said, 
"This time it cannot be from you." Then I opened it 
with the laugh in my mouth, and this is what I read: 
"Jeanie is dead, and I am in despair." It was like a 
scene in a tragedy. They all saw the change in my face, 
but I dreaded to say anything, for there was her son 
sitting by, my good Frank, as gay as possible. He was 
only about fifteen, or perhaps sixteen. We managed to 
keep it from him till next morning, not to give him that 



124 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



shock in the midst of his pleasure; and somehow the 
supper got completed without any one knowing what 
had happened. 

A very short time after my poor brother came home 
with the two little white -faced, forlorn children, with 
their big eyes. I never thought but that it must kill 
him, but it did not ; though, when I met them at Victoria, 
I thought I never should have got him safely back, even 
to Windsor. He was completely shattered, like a man 
in a palsy, for a time scarcely able to stand or to speak, 
but not so overwhelmed with grief as I expected. Grief 
is the strangest thing, or rather it is very wonderful in 
how many different ways people take those blows, which 
•from outside seem as if they must be final. Especially 
is it so in the closest of human connections, that between 
man and wife. People who have seemed to be all the 
world to each other are parted so, and the survivor, who 
is for the moment as my poor brother said " in despair," 
shows the most robust power of bearing it, and is so 
soon himself or herself again, that one, confounded 
and half- ashamed, feels that one is half- ridiculous to 
have expected anything different. Frank, poor fellow, 
had got over his sorrow on the long journey. He came 
to me like a child glad to get home, not much disturbed 
about anything that could happen. He lived for about 
six years after, for a great part of the time in tolerable 
comfort, but, so far as work was concerned, was capable 
of no more. The shaking of his hand was never cured, 
nor even sufficiently improved to make writing of any 
kind possible. He settled down to a kind of quiet life, 
read his newspaper, took his walk, sat in his easy-chair 
in the dining-room or in his own room for the rest of 
the day, was pleased with Frank's progress and with 
Nelly's love for reading, and with his little girls, and so 
got through his life, I think, not unhappily. But he 
and I, who had been so much to each other once, were 
nothing to each other now. I sometimes thought he 
looked at me as a kind of stepmother to his children, 



GOD OR MAMMON. 



125 



and we no longer thought alike on almost any subject : 
he had drifted one way and I another. He did not even 
take very much interest in me, and I fear he often irri- 
tated me. Poor Frank ! it was sometimes a great trial, 
and I often wonder how the life went on, on the whole, 
so well as it did. He entertained delusive hopes for a 
time of going back and of being able to do something ; but 
they were evidently from the first delusions and nothing 
more, and it did not hurt him so much as might have 
been thought when they vanished, — he had too little 
strength to feel it, I suppose. 

Of course I had to face a prospect considerably 
changed by this great addition to my family. I had been 
obliged to work pretty hard before to meet all the too 
great expenses of the house. Now four people were 
added to it, very small two of them, but the others not 
inexpensive members of the house. I remember making 
a kind of pretence to myself that I had to think it over, 
to make a great decision, to give up what hopes I might 
have had of doing now my very best, and to set myself 
steadily to make as much money as I could, and do the 
best I could for the three boys. I think that in some 
pages of my old book I have put this down with a little 
half-sincere attempt at a heroical attitude. I don't think, 
however, that there was any reality in it. I never did nor 
could, of course, hesitate for a moment as to what had to 
be done. It had to be done, and that was enough, and 
there is no doubt that it was much more congenial to me 
to drive on and keep everything going, with a certain 
scorn of the increased work, and metaphorical toss of my 
head, as if it mattered ! than it ever would have been to 
labour with an artist's fervour and concentration to pro- 
duce a masterpiece. One can't be two things or serve 
two masters. Which was God and which was mammon 
in that individual case it would be hard to say, perhaps ; 
for once in a way mammon, meaning the money which 
fed my flock, was in a kind of a poor way God, so far as 
the necessities of that crisis went. And the wonder was 



126 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



that we did it, I can't tell how, economising, I fear, very 
little, never knowing quite at the beginning of the year 
how the ends would come together at Christmas, always 
with troublesome debts and forestalling of money earned, 
so that I had generally eaten up the price of a book be- 
fore it was printed, but always — thank God for it ! — so far 
successfully that, though always owing somebody, I never 
owed anybody to any unreasonable amount or for any 
unreasonable extent of time, but managed to pay every- 
thing and do everything, to stint nothing, to give them 
all that was happy and pleasant and of good report 
through all those dear and blessed boyish years. I confess 
that it was not done in the noblest way, with those strong 
efforts of self-control and economy which some people 
can exercise. I could not do that, or at least did not, 
but I could work. And I did work, joyfully, with pleas- 
ure in it and in my life, sometimes with awful moments 
when I did not know how I should ever pass some 
dreadful corner, where the way seemed to end and the 
rocks to close in : but the corner was always rounded, the 
road opened up again. 

I recollect one of these moments especially, I forget 
the date : I always do forget dates, but the circumstances 
were these. We were a family of eight, children in- 
cluded, two boys at Eton, almost always guests in the 
house, — every kind of thing (in our modest way) going on, 
small dinner-parties, and a number of mild amusements, 
when it so happened that I came to a pause and found 
that every channel was closed and no place for any im- 
portant work. I had always a lightly flowing stream of 
magazine articles, &c, and refused no work that was 
offered to me ; but the course of life could not have been 
carried on on these, and a large sum was wanted at brief 
intervals to clear the way. I had, I think, a novel 
written, but did not know where I should find a place for 
it. Literary business arrangements were not organised 
then as now — there was no such thing as a literary agent. 
Serials in magazines were published in much less 



A CRITICAL MOMENT. 



127 



number, magazines themselves being not half so many 
(and a good thing too !). The consequence was that I 
seemed to be at a dead standstill. It was like nothing 
but what I have already said, — a mountainous road 
making a sharp turn round a corner, when it seems to 
disappear altogether, as if it ended there in the closing 
in of the cliffs. I was miserably anxious, not knowing 
where to turn or what to do, hoping every morning would 
bring me some proposal, waiting upon God, if I may use 
the word (I did the thing with the most complete faith, 
— what could I else ?), for the opening up of that closed 
way. One evening I got a letter from a man whose 
name I did not know, asking if he could come to see me 
about a business matter. I forget whether he mentioned 
the name of the ' Graphic,' then just established, — I think 
not ; at all events there was nothing in the letter to make 
me think it of any importance. I replied, however (I didn't 
always reply so quickly), appointing the second day after 
to receive him. I had decided to go to London next day 
to see if I could persuade some one to take my novel and 
give a good price for it. I think it was to Mr George 
Smith I went, who was very kind and gracious, as was 
his wont, but would have nothing to say to me. I fancy 
I went somewhere else, but I had no success. I recollect 
coming home in a kind of despair, and being met at the 
door when it was opened to me by the murmur of the 
merry house, the cheerful voices, the overflowing home, 
— every corner full and warm as if it had a steady 
income and secure revenue at its back. My brother, I 
remember, who I suppose had seen some cloud on my 
face before I left, came forward to meet me with some 
trivial question, hoping I had not felt cold or taken cold 
or something, which in the state of despair in which 
I was had a sort of exasperating effect upon me; but 
they were all dispersing over the house to get ready for 
dinner, and I escaped further notice. No one thought 
anything more than that I was dull or cross for the rest 
of the evening. I used to work very late then, always 



128 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



till two in the morning (it is past three at this moment, 
18th, nay, 19th April 1895, but this is no longer usual 
with me). I can't remember whether I worked that 
night, but I think it was one of the darkest nights (oh, 
no, no, that I should say so ! they were all safe and well), 
at least a very dreadful moment, and I could not think 
what I should do. 

Next morning came my visitor. He came from the 
' Graphic ' : he wanted a story, I think the first they 
had had. He wanted it very soon, the first instalments 
within a week or two ; and after a little talk and negotia- 
tion, he came to the conclusion that they would give me 
£1300. The road did run round that corner after all. 
Our Father in heaven had settled it all the time for 
the children ; there had never been any doubt. I was 
absolutely without hope or help. I did not know where 
to turn, and here, in a moment, all was clear again — the 
road free in the sunshine, the cloud in a moment rolled 
away. 

It was not, however, the story which I had finished at 
the time which I gave them (which did not seem suit- 
able). I began another instantly, and went on with it in 
instalments, I think. It was the novel called * Innocent,' 
and was not very good, so far as I can remember, though 
the idea was one that had pleased me, — the development 
by successive shocks of feeling of a girl of dormant in- 
telligence. I believe the trial scene in it was very badly 
managed — not unnatural, for I never was present at a trial, 
though that, of course, was no excuse. It was seldom 
that an incident so dramatic as this little episode I have 
described took place in my life; but it was checkered 
with similar, if lesser, crises. It was always a struggle 
to get safely through every year and make my ends meet. 
Indeed I fear they never did quite meet ; there was always 
a tugging together, which cost me a great deal of work 
and much anxiety. The wonder was that the much was 
never too much. I always managed it somehow, thank 
God ! very happy (and presuming a little on my privilege) 



AN ELASTIC SPIRIT. 



129 



when I saw the way tolerably clear before me, and knew 
at the beginning of the year where the year's income was 
to come from, but driving, ploughing on, when I was not 
at all sure of that all the same, and in some miraculous 
way getting through. If I had not had unbroken health, 
and a spirit almost criminally elastic, I could not have 
done it. I ought to have been worn out by work, and 
crushed by care, half a hundred times by all rules, but I 
never was so. Good day and ill day, they balanced each 
other, and I got on through year after year. This, I am 
afraid, sounds very much like a boast. (I was going to 
add, " but I don't mean it as such.") I am not very sure, 
however, that I don't mean it, or that my head might 
not be a little turned sometimes by a sense of the rash- 
ness and dare-devilness, if I may use such a word, of my 
own proceedings ; and it was in its way an immoral, or 
at least an un-moral, mode of life, dashing forward in the 
face of all obstacles and taking up all burdens with a 
kind of levity, as if my strength and resource could never 
fail. If they had failed, I should have been left in the 
direst bankruptcy; and I had no right to reckon upon 
being always delivered at the critical moment. I should 
think any one who did so blamable now. I persuaded 
myself then that I could not help it, that no better way 
was practicable, and indeed did live by faith, whether it 
was or was not exercised in a legitimate way. I might 
say now that another woman doing the same thing was 
tempting Providence. To tempt Providence or to trust 
God, which was it ? In my own case, naturally, I said 
the latter, and did not in the least deserve, in my temerity, 
to be led and constantly rescued as I was. I must add 
that I never had any help from outside. I never received 
so much as a legacy in my life. My publishers were good 
and kind in the way of making me advances, without which 
I could not have got on ; but they were never — probably 
because of these advances, and of my constant need and 
inability, both by circumstances and nature, to struggle 
over prices — very lavish in payment. Still, I made on 

I 



130 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



the whole a large income — and spent it, taking no 
thought of the morrow. Yes, taking a great deal of 
thought of the morrow in the way of constant work and 
constant undertaking of whatever kind of work came to 
my hand. But, indeed, I do not defend myself. It would 
have been better if I could have added the grace of thrift, 
which is said to be the inheritance of the Scot, to the 
faculty of work. I feel that I leave a very bad lesson 
behind me; but I am afraid that the immense relief of 
getting over a crisis gave a kind of reflected enjoyment 
to the trouble between, and that these alternations of 
anxiety and deliverance were more congenial than the 
steady monotony of self-denial, not to say that the still 
better kind of self-denial which should have made a 
truer artist than myself pursue the higher objects of art, 
instead of the mere necessities of living, was wanting too. 
I pay the penalty in that I shall not leave anything be- 
hind me that will live. What does it matter ? Nothing 
at all now — never anything to speak of. At my most 
ambitious of times I would rather my children had 
remembered me as their mother than in any other way, 
and my friends as their friend. I never cared for any- 
thing else. And now that there are no children to whom 
to leave any memory, and the friends drop day by day, 
what is the reputation of a circulating library to me? 
Nothing, and less than nothing — a thing the thought of 
which now makes me angry, that any one should for a 
moment imagine I cared for that, or that it made up for 
any loss. I am perhaps angry, less reasonably, when 
well-intentioned people tell me I have done good, or 
pious ones console me for being left behind by thoughts 
of the good I must yet be intended to do. God help us 
all ! what is the good done by any such work as mine, or 
even better than mine? "If any man build upon this 
foundation . . . wood, hay, stubble ; ... if the work shall 
be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be 
saved; yet so as by fire." An infinitude of pains and 
labour, and all to disappear like the stubble and the hay. 



INJUDICIOUS COMPLIMENTS. 131 

Yet who knows? The little faculty may grow a bigger 
one in the more genial land to come, where one will have 
no need to think of the boiling of the daily pot. In the 
meantime it was good to have kept the pot boiling and 
maintained the cheerful household fire so long, though 
it is smouldering out in darkness now. 

There is one thing, however, I have always whimsically 
resented, and that is the contemptuous compliments that 
for many years were the right thing to address to me 
and to say of me, as to my "industry." Now that I 
am old the world is a little more respectful, and I have 
not heard so much about my industry for some time. 
The delightful superiority of it in the mouth of people 
who had neither industry nor anything else to boast of 
used to make me very wroth, I avow, — wroth with a 
laugh and rueful half sense of the justice of it in the 
abstract, though not from those who spoke. The same 
kind of feeling made me angry the other day even, 
comically, not seriously angry, at a bit of a young person 
who complimented me on my ' Beleaguered City.' Now, 
I am quite willing that people like Mr Hutton should 
speak of the 4 Beleaguered City 9 as of the one little thing 
among my productions that is worth remembering (no, 
Mr Hutton does nothing of the kind — he is not that kind 
of person), but I felt inclined to say to the other, "The 
• Beleaguered City,' indeed, my young woman ! I should 
think something a good deal less than that might be 
good enough for you." By which it may perhaps be 
suspected that I don't always think such small beer of 
myself as I say, but this is a pure matter of comparison. 

I need scarcely say that there was not much of what 
one might call a literary life in all this. I was very 
seldom in town, Windsor being near enough to permit 
of almost all that one wanted to do in town, except 
society, being done in a day, between two trains so to 
speak, which was the most convenient thing in the 
world, and the most impossible for any sort of social 
intercourse. Even a dinner-party, which could only 



132 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



be done at the cost of a visit, thus became much more 
out of the question than if I had lived at a greater 
distance, and thus been compelled to pass a week or 
two occasionally in London. Now and then I went 
to a luncheon-party or an afternoon gathering, both of 
which things I detested. Curiously enough, being fond 
on the whole of my fellow-creatures, I always disliked 
paying visits, and felt myself a fish out of water when 
I was not in my own house, — not to say that I was 
constantly wanted at home, and proud to feel that I 
was so. The work answered very well for a pretence 
to get me off engagements, but I could always have 
managed the work if I had liked the pleasure, or sup- 
posed pleasure. I need not speak, however, as if I had 
been a person in much request, which would be giving 
an entirely false view of myself. I never was so in the 
least. From the days when my Jewish friend com- 
plained that I did not do myself justice, with the 
aggrieved tone of a woman to whom I had thus done 
a great injustice by not doing anything to make myself 
agreeable or remarkable, being asked to her house for 
that purpose, I have always been a disappointment to 
my friends. I have no gift of talk, not much to say; 
and though I have always been an excellent listener, 
that only succeeds under auspicious circumstances. 

I think I never met so many people as in the days of 
Mrs Duncan Stewart, that dear and bright old lady who 
used to fill her little rooms in Sloane Street with the 
most curious jumble of entertaining people and people 
who came to be entertained, the smartest (odious word !) 
of society, and all the luminaries of the moment, many 
writers, artists, &c, and a few mountebanks to make up. 
She herself was very worthy of a place in any picture-gal- 
lery. There is a very droll sketch of her by Mr Augustus 
Hare, which does no justice to the subject. She was an 
English and nineteenth -century shadow of the French 
ladies who take up so much space in the records of the 
eighteenth, and who were, indeed, I suppose, of no more 



A GENTLEWOMAN OF THE OLD SCHOOL. 1 33 

personal consequence than she, were it not for the men- 
tion they have secured in so many records of a memoir- 
writing time, and the numbers of great people who circled 
round them. Mrs Stewart had known almost everybody 
in her day, which of itself is a wonderful attraction. She 
had at one time seen much of Disraeli — almost at one 
time run the risk of having her head turned by him. 
The loves (but this never came to be a love — on her side 
at least; "For, my dear," she used to say, "I had the 
great preservation of being in love with my husband") 
of a lady of eighty are always amusing and pathetic. 
Age takes all the doubtfulness out of them, and gives 
them a piquancy as of the loves of children. She had 
ancient suitors, worshippers of her old age, always about 
her. I believe she refused a proposal of marriage after 
she was seventy. She was at the time I knew her of the 
most picturesque appearance, with a delicate small face 
of the colour of ivory, fine features, except that always 
troublesome mouth, which is imperfect in almost every 
face that is good for anything, and those dim blue eyes 
which have a charm of their own — half veiled and mystic. 
She was one of those people who do not grow grey, and 
she wore a peculiar head-dress — a kerchief of fine muslin 
and lace falling upon her shoulders, and softly veiling her 
small erect head. In the middle of the flutter of general 
company about her, she had always (as indeed every one 
has) a constant circle of intimates always the same, and 
sometimes not quite worthy of the idol they surrounded. 
It seems a law of nature that this should be so, and that 
every remarkable person should have a little ring of com- 
monplace satellites, who are apt to make the object of 
their adoration a little absurd, out of pure love and desire 
to do her or him honour, with perhaps the leaven of a 
little hope to do themselves honour too, by being known 
as her or his friends. This delightful old lady was very 
fond of seeing and knowing everything. She went to every 
entertainment, grave or gay, and was all agog to go to 
the Greek play at Eton, where it came to entrance us 



134 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



from Oxford, with a chorus pour rire of a dozen dread- 
fully recognisable young Dons and scholars affubles in 
inconvenient robes and beards; as well as to see Sarah 
Bernhardt, or any and every novelty that turned up. 
" La ptece m'interesse," she said, looking out upon her 
parties with her dim eyes that saw everything, and never 
so pleased as when the crowd fluttered about her, and a 
little special court gathered round her sofa. Some vile 
young journalist, I remember, made a cruel sketch of her, 
which was published in a cruel and wicked series then 
giving great piquancy to the ' Saturday Review ' (I think 
it was in the Girl of the Period and Mature Siren time, 
which are all so forgotten nowadays), for which I hope 
he has had his deserts somewhere. Of course, nothing 
could be easier than to travesty this sweet and bright ol%i 
lady into a spectre of society, clinging on to the last to 
social dissipations, and incapable of being alone — and 
nothing more absolutely untrue. Her grandchild said 
of her after she was dead, in the hush of that pause in 
which the longing to know what they are doing, what 
they are thinking who have left us, is overwhelming, 
44 Oh, she will have no time to think of us, she will be 
so much interested in seeing everything." Even in 
the shock of loss it was impossible not to be consoled 
by the thought of that vivid curiosity and interest and 
enjoyment with which she would find a new sphere 
before her, with everything to be found out. 

Whom did I meet at Mrs Stewart's? I forget; no- 
body, I suppose, of any great consequence. She had 
little boxes of rooms over a tailor's shop in Sloane 
Street, and there gave the most elaborate luncheons, 
all sorts of delicacies, to which a number of very fine 
people would crowd in, sitting at all the uneasy angles 
of a table with adjuncts to it, which completely filled 
the room. Her income, I believe, was as small as her 
rooms; and her pleasant way was to tell her daughter 
or some intimate friend she had so many people coming 
to lunch, and then to prepare her pretty head-dress 



A SLOANE STREET SALON. 



135 



and her careful little tnise en scene to receive them, with 
no further thought of more substantial preparations. 
But the table groaned all the same, and there was 
every costly and delicate viand on it that was to be 
had, and heaps of flowers, thanks always to her 
daughter or her loving admirers. There used to be 
Lady Martin often, in a large Rubens hat and long 
sweeping feather, though long past the age of such 
vanities, seventy or thereabouts, with all the old world 
graces, and the consciousness of having been more ad- 
mired than any woman of her day, which gives an in- 
effable air to an old beauty. Her husband, the excellent 
Sir Theodore, was so evidently and so constantly the first 
of all her admirers, leading the band, that the group was 
always interesting and touching in its bygoneness yet 
perfect sincerity and good faith. She wrote her book 
after this about the Shakespeare parts she had played, — 
that strange, elegant, antiquated expression of the grace- 
ful feminine enthusiast accustomed to applause which, 
at least in the case of a good woman, at her age is so 
touching as to make one ashamed of the smile which 
fades away almost into sentiment while we look on 
and are ashamed of ourselves. There was the twinkle 
of Bon Gaultier in Sir Theodore's eye on other matters, 
but never where his wife was concerned. And a very 
frequent visitor was the kind, the gentle, the sympa- 
thetic Censor of Plays, dead only this year, Mr Pigott, 
a man to whom everybody's heart went out, I don't 
know exactly why or how, except from an intuition of 
friendship, a sort of instinct. He was always inter- 
ested, always kind, — a sort of atmosphere of humanity 
and warm feeling and sympathy about him, his little 
round form and round head radiating warmth and kind- 
liness. He is the only man I have ever met, I think, 
from whom I never heard an unkind word of any one. 
This, to tell the sad truth, is apt to make conversation 
a little insipid ; but he had the most extensive acquaint- 
ance both with people and things, and had many a 



136 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



happy turn of expression and mot of social wisdom which 
preserved him from that worst of faults : he was never 
dull, though always kind, which is almost a paradox. 
I have my own way of dividing people, as I suppose 
most of us have. There are those whom I can talk 
to, and those whom I can't. With the first no subject 
is needed, the conversation goes on of itself; with the 
other all the finest subjects in the world produce no 
result. (I remember as I write one story of Mr Pigott 
which slightly, but very slightly, contradicts this state- 
ment that he never said an unkind word. We were 
talking once of the son-in-law of a friend of ours, 
who had most gratuitously and unnecessarily appeared 
against her in a trial in which she was unhappily in- 
volved, to prove (as if any one could prove such a 
thing) that certain anonymous letters were written by 
her. We were discussing his conduct with indigna- 
tion, when Mr Pigott looked up with a smile, — "Look 
in his face and you'll forgive him all/' he said. It 
was true that the man was a fool, and bore it on his 
face.) 

It was with Mrs Stewart that I first saw Tennyson. 
She had, I suppose, asked leave to take me there with 
her to luncheon, and I was of course glad to go, though 
a little unwilling, as my manner was. I forget where 
it was — an ordinary London house, where they were 
living for the season. Mrs Tennyson lay upon her 
sofa, as she did always — though able to be taken to 
the luncheon-table by her excellent son Hallam, whom 
I knew a little, and who was always kind and pleasant. 
I have always thought that Tennyson's appearance 
was too emphatically that of a poet, especially in his 
photographs: the fine frenzy, the careless picturesque- 
ness, were almost too much. He looked the part too 
well ; but in reality there was a roughness and acrid 
gloom about the man which saved him from his over 
romantic appearance. He paid no attention to me, as 
was very natural. The conversation turned somehow 



TENNYSON. 



137 



upon his little play of "The Falcon" — now more for- 
gotten, I think, than any of his others, though it seemed 
to me much the most effective of them. I said some- 
thing about its beauty, and that I thought it just the 
kind of entertainment which a gracious prince might 
offer to his guests; and he replied, with a sort of in- 
dignant sense of grievance, "And they tell me people 
won't go to see it." I am afraid, however, that I did 
not attract the poet in any way, to Mrs Stewart's great 
disappointment and annoyance. She was eager to point 
out to me that he was much occupied by a very old 
lady — a fair, little, white-haired woman, nearly eighty, 
the mother of Mr Tom Hughes (Tom Brown), who 
was just then going out to America to the settlement 
in the backwoods which was called Rugby, in Tennes- 
see, where the young Hughes were, and which was 
going to be the most perfect colony on the face of 
the earth, filled with nothing but the cardinal virtues, 
I think the old lady died there, and I know the settle- 
ment went sadly to pieces and ruined many hopes. 
However, feeling I had not been entirely a success, — a 
feeling very habitual to me, — I was glad of Mrs Stewart's 
sign of departure, and went up to Mrs Tennyson on 
the sofa, to which she had returned, to take my leave. 
I am never good at parting politenesses, and I daresay 
was very gauche in saying that it was so kind of her 
to ask me; while she graciously responded that she 
was delighted to have seen me, &c, according to the 
established ritual in such cases. Tennyson was stand- 
ing by, lowering over us with his ragged beard and his 
saturnine look. He eyed us, while these pretty speeches 
were being made, with cynical eyes. "What liars you 
women are ! " he said. There could not have been any- 
thing more true ; but, to be sure, it was not so civil as 
it was true. I never saw him again till that recent 
occasion when my Cecco and I went to Farringford 
when he was Lord Tennyson, and very old and infirm, 
and his wife was a shrunken old, old lady, laid upon 



138 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



a sofa from which she never moved, the flood of life flow- 
ing past her but never touching her, — a pathetic sight. 
It was after Lionel's death, and after my Cyril's death, 
and I sat by her and cried; but she seemed in her 
old age as if she could weep no more. That time 
Lord Tennyson was delightful — kind and friendly and 
fall of stories, talking a great deal, and in the best of 
humours. He read the " Funeral Ode " to us after- 
wards, and one or two shorter poems ("Blow, bugles, 
blow"); and I was so glad and thankful that Cecco 
should see him so, and have such a bright recollection 
of him to carry through his life. Alas 1 alas ! It had 
always been a regret that he had never seen Carlyle — 
so little as it matters now! 

It is rather a fictitious sort of thing recalling those 
semi-professional recollections. It is by way of a kind 
of apology for knowing so few notable people. I met 
Mr Fawcett once, the blind politician, a huge mild man, 
cheerful in talk and amiable in countenance, whom some- 
body (not me, I am afraid) overheard saying to his wife 
when she came back to him from another room, to take — 
the small smiling woman she was — his colossal person in 
charge, " Oh, Milly, your step is like music." He spoke 
to me very kindly, magnifying my work, though I don't 
remember how, except the pleasant impression. At the 
same party was Sir Charles Dilke, who, on being intro- 
duced to me, began at once to speak of his books and of 
his publishers, as if he and not I were the literary person. 
The same thing happened with a great lady I afterwards 
met in the same house, — a Roman Catholic lady, and 
a very great personage. There had been several invita- 
tions given to her at one time and another by the 
mistress of the house, but they all failed somehow, and 
at last the one she could accept fell on a Friday. The 
great lady took the trouble to write the day before to 
remind my friend that it was Friday, and consequently 
to her a fast day. This put C. R. on her mettle, as any 



A VEGETARIAN TRIUMPH. 



139 



one who knows her will understand, and we were served 
with the most exquisite and luxurious meal, I don't know 
how many maigrc dishes — fish, eggs, and vegetables, all 
beautifully cooked and seductive to the last degree, about 
as little like fasting as the imagination could conceive, 
I like fish and vegetables better than any other kind of 

food, and, beguiled by the variety, followed Lady 's 

example and kept up with her as long as I could. But it 
was a vain attempt, and I had to sit and look on for some 
time while she travelled valiantly through every dish. 
She, too, chose as the theme of her conversation her 
own books, their success or rather their relative successes, 
and the troubles she had with her publishers, and all the 
rest, while I sat with rueful amusement listening, feeling 
my little role taken from me. The worst was, I had 
never heard she had written anything, and was in mortal 
terror of betraying my ignorance ! What with her liter- 
ature, and her beautiful appetite, and our beautiful meal, 
the occasion was delightful. There were some actor- 
gentlemen of the party, — I know not if the great lady had 
a liking for actors, but there they were, furtively regaled 
with beef after the lighter quips and fancies of the feast, 
and rather ignored in consequence by us finer people who 
had fasted on about twenty of the daintiest dishes in the 
world. 

The year 1875 was an era in my life — a great many 
things happened in that year. Frank, my good Frank, 
my nephew, who had grown the most trustworthy and 
satisfactory boy in the world, loving home, fond of 
amusement and diversion, but only in the right ways, 
— such a one as is a stand-by and tower of strength in a 
family, — completed his work at Cooper's Hill very well, 
taking a high place, and so having the right to choose 
what part of India he would go to. Things had so 
developed in the family that this event seemed an 
occasion for various other changes, especially as at 
the same time Cyril was to go to Oxford. My brother 



140 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



had been getting feeble and less easy to take care of, 
and I was anxious that he should live in a doctor's house 
and be watched and cared for, as his state seemed to 
demand ; and he was himself desirous of making a 
change, although his plan for himself was quite different, 
and he preferred the freedom of going off by himself 
somewhere as my father had done, and living in his 
own way, for which he was evidently not strong enough, 
though he did not perceive it himself. We settled, how- 
ever, that when the elder boys, as we called them, went 
away, Frank to India and Cyril to Balliol, this further 
move should be decided on ; and that the little girls, 
whose education ought to be seriously thought of, should 
go to Germany at the same time. I think the pressure 
of my poor brother's illness, though he was not ill then 
but only ailing, and of his different way of looking at 
things and perhaps unconscious criticism and often dis- 
approval of my ways, had become a little too much for 
me, and he wanted to be free himself, and when his 
children were gone would no longer have had anything 
to bind him to my house. But all this was made un- 
necessary, these plans and arrangements, as often happens 
in such a breaking up. Death is often opportune, as 
Mr Pigott said. I was trying to make Frank's last 
summer at home pleasant, and wanted him within the 
limitations of our small ways to see and do everything 
possible. There is an incident in one of my own 
books, in ' Kirsteen,' which is a sort of illustration of 
my feeling about him. It was not my own invention, 
but told me as the family custom in the large, poor, 
proud family which formed the model of the family 
in that book, — the bottle of champagne solemnly pro- 
duced and drunk by the whole party on the night 
before the boy went away. I wanted Frank to have 
his bottle of champagne. I had settled to take them 
all to Switzerland for one thing, and I took them up 
to an opera for another, and to stay a night or two in 



THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 



141 



London, and to see everything they could see in the 
small amount of time. There was a match going on at 
Lord's, I think, which filled the morning, and then we 
were to dine at Miss Blackwood's, and stay in the same 
house in Half Moon Street where she was. All was 
very lively and pleasant for the boys, who went up in 
the morning all so bright and gay, with their little bows 
of blue ribbon, and button -holes with a bit of forget- 
me-not, to serve the same purpose. How often have I 
come out with them to the door, seeing them off, so 
spruce, in the bright morning (surely the days were 
always bright when they went up for that Eton and 
Harrow match), so full of pleasure. I found one of these 
little blue bows in my Cyril's room after — God bless 
him ! — and it lies with other treasures. I can see them 
now setting out, the little hall full of the little bustle, 
and I half scolding, telling them they were sure to be 
late, and so proud — the three of them — all well, not a 
cloud, the most hopeful youths, Frank tall and strong, 
my Cyril with his beautiful face, my Cecco only a boy 
and little, straining to keep up with them, all dressed in 
their best, with that keen regard to the fashion which 
I laughed at and loved, — but what did I not love in 
them ? They were my all in this world. I was always 
anxious ; but there was not a cloud upon the skies, and 
what had I to fear ? 

Next morning we were called back by a telegram. My 
brother had been taken ill, and the little scheme of 
pleasure was broken up. I found him very ill, scarcely 
conscious, when I got home, and in that state he re- 
mained, with a few lightenings, till he died. It lasted 
only a few days. He was not quite sixty, but worn out, 
and his life withered away to the barest skeleton of 
living. Often, often have I been vexed with thoughts 
that I might have been more tender to him. I did all 
I could for him, grudging nothing, but we had veered 
far away from each other, and I do not know that I was 



142 AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 

always kind. But it was not in unkindness, but with 
a full heart, that I thanked God for his release then. 
He was taken away from the partings which would have 
been hard to bear, from the evil to come: he had not 
to give up his son or to part with his little girls; and 
I was glad for him. He was delivered just in time, and 
slept and dreamed away, without any trouble in going 
so far as any one knew. He had not taken very 
much part in our life ; the children, who were much with 
him, were too young to mourn except for the moment. 

There was one thing that it was a balm to me to think 
of. At first it was supposed that he might rally and go 
on for some time, for two years perhaps, the doctor said. 
I took my own boys into council, and they both said 
warmly, with all their hearts, that there must be no 
thought now of any change, — that we could let him go 
into no stranger's hands now that he was ill. It cost 
my Cecco something to make such resolutions as that, 
I knew after, but only long after. To Cyril it cost 
nothing, but they both agreed cordially, both the boys, 
as to a thing that could not be gainsaid. But they were 
not put to the proof — and he was saved seeing them all 
go away. 

Cyril left Eton at the end of that half, a little while 
after. When he went down to see if the lists were out 
before we left home, the man at Drakes told him, smiling, 
that he could not tell him the names, but he could tell 
him this, that in the first three, two were Oppidans. 
This was very rare, and there was little doubt that 
he was one of them. He and Frank came rushing 
up with this exciting news to tell me. I have had 
great trouble, but also I have had many joys. I 
forget who the Colleger was who was first, — I think 
it was Ryle, or perhaps Harmer, now Bishop; then 
Farrar, Oliphant. These two went to Balliol, both 
with scholarships from Eton, Farrar also with a Balliol 
scholarship, which Cyril ought to have got too, but 



THE MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN. 



143 



did not. Both of them now are, I hope and believe, 
fulfilling their lives in a better place than this, Farrar 
very young. He was more regular, more dutiful; he 
had not the wayward touch in him, the careless heart. 
He did far better after. At that time there was no better 
possible, — it was all triumph and anticipation of every 
good. Eton is very dear, very bright to me in all its 
recollections. No brighter being than my Cyril ever 
came from it, a boy unharmed in every way, handsome, 
winning, clever, gay, the most light-hearted, the most 
generous in feeling, full of understanding and of tender- 
ness, nothing about him commonplace or dull, looking 
as if he would not subdue but win the whole world. I 
used to think that if one could desire to have another 
personality than one's own, his would have been the 
thing to dream of at that bright moment. And I used 
to apply to him the description of the young squire in 
Chaucer, — 

M Singing he was, or flyting, all the day, 
He was as fresh as is the month of May." 

There was no prouder woman in the world than I was 
with the three. Frank was twenty-two, Cyril nineteen, 
Cecco sixteen — he doing so well too, with his strange 
little ways and shyness and close clinging always to his 
mother. It is just twenty years ago. I think often if 
all had gone well, as might then have been so confidently 
expected, — had Frank been a prosperous man in India, 
perhaps sending home his children to be educated, and 
Cyril been a rising lawyer as was hoped, and Cecco, if 
delicate, still able with care to keep on, — it would all 
have been so natural, not anything wonderful, just the 
commonplace of life for which other fathers and mothers 
would scarcely pause to give special thanks, it being all 
so usual, exactly what might have been expected. And 
ah, the difference to me ! But, thank God ! we did not 
know what was coming in these days. 



144 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



We went to Interlaken, Cecco and I and our dear 
"little Nelly." The older boys took the little girls to 
their German school at Arolsen, and joined us after, 
coming round by the Lake of Constance. We found 
Annie Thackeray, attended by Miss Huth, a gentle little 
soul, very much like my little Nelly, and making great 
friends with her at Interlaken; and here it was that 
Annie and I became fast friends. There never was any 
one more fascinating or a more delightful companion, so 
pleased to please, so ready to see the best of you — a 
little, perhaps, too ready to perceive a best that might 
not be in you, yet with a keen observation underneath 
that was — though if the report was unfavourable would 
scarcely permit itself to be — critical. She was always 
more effusive than myself, delightfully flattering, appre- 
ciating. I used to say that if you wanted the moon 
very much, she would eagerly, and for a moment quite 
seriously, think how she could help to get it for you, 
scorning the bounds of the possible. We went to Grin- 
delwald together and were in the same hotel — the old 
Bear in its homely days — for about a fortnight, and 
grew intimate. She was joined there by the Leslie 
Stephens, meaning her sister Minnie and Minnie's hus- 
band. It was Mrs Stephen's last summer in this world, 
but we did not know that either. She was not strong, 
but there were reasons for that, and no sort of alarm 
about her. Little Minnie, her one little girl, was the 
baby of the party — a little, fragile, quaint thing, whom 
I remember standing by the great St Bernard, Sultan, 
with her hands in his deep fur, a curious little picture. 
She was full of quaint sayings and wondering looks, 
looking on at the boys and asking solemnly, " What are 
they ninking about ? " with the gravest observation, and 
defending her little basket of cakes from Cyril's pre- 
tended attacks with a serious discrimination of him as 
the greedy boy, which became one of our little jokes. 
It takes but a small matter to make a joke when all 



A SUCCESSFUL EXPEDITION. 



145 



is well and one's heart inclined that way. I made, 
acquaintance with Mr Leslie Stephen at that time, — a 
man with whom I had had a slight passage of arms by 
letters about some literary work, he being the editor of 
the * CornhilV a prosperous magazine in those days. I 
fell into a chance talking with him one evening in front 
of the Bear, when the sky was growing dim over the 
Wetterhorn, and the shadows of the mountains drawing 
down as they do when night is coming on. I recollect 
we walked up and down and talked, I have not the 
smallest remembrance what about. But the end of it 
was that when I went in we had become friends, or so it 
was at least on my side. 

Leslie Stephen was kind to the boys, taking them for 
walks with him up among the mountains ; and, egged on 
by the ladies, he was so far kind to me that he took two 
of my stories for the 'Cornhill,' which meant in each 
case the bulk of a year's income. 

This expedition was altogether very successful and 
delightful, the last time the three boys were to spend 
together, for many years, we thought, — for ever in this 
world, as it turned out. One thing happened in it on 
which I look back with a mixture of feeling and amuse- 
ment. It was the coming to life of the two who were 
then called the little girls. They had been very un- 
responsive children, not " forthcoming " as Mrs Fresh- 
field says ; little shy mice, half-shy, half-defiant, as I think 
children often are whose childhood has been broken up 
by transplantation to another house. They had not had 
perhaps so much as they should have had of the petting 
of the nursery. The household when they came into it 
was preoccupied by the boys, who were so much older ; 
and though everybody was kind, they missed, no doubt 
unconsciously, poor little souls, the something more than 
kindness, the indulgence, the mother. At all events they 
were very chilly, scared, distrustful little things. They 
left home with no apparent feeling at all, and much com- 
ic 



146 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



ment among us (most of the bystanders were always 
rather against these two little impedimenta) at the 
absence of feeling. Of course they were excited by the 
prospect of the journey in the care of the two big 
brothers, and all the novelty. But when they were left 
in Germany among strange-speaking people, among new 
ways, in such a strange place, the two little hearts gushed 
out all at once. They wrote to me the most pathetic, 
imploring letters. "Oh, come and take us home; oh 
come, come and take us home. We will be as good 
as angels," said Madge, "if you will only come and 
take us home." It was rather hard work refusing. We 
were in Interlaken, I think, when these letters came, and 
we made up a basket of all the toys and pictures and 
cakes that would carry, to console them. And they soon 
got over their first home - sickness. And they never 
relapsed into those chills and mists of their childhood, 
but have always been since my true children, the un- 
questioned daughters of the house, and with no further 
cloud upon the completeness of their adoption — they of 
me, as well as I of them. The first is often the more 
difficult of the two. 

With that year began a new life, one of which I cannot 
speak much. That was the burden and heat of the day : 
my anxieties were sometimes almost more than I could 
bear. I had gone through many trials, as I thought, 
and God knows many of them had been hard enough, 
but then I knew to the depths of my heart what the 
yoke was and how heavy. Many times I have woke in 
the morning feeling in myself that image of Shelley's 
"Prometheus," which in my youth I had vexed my 
husband by not appreciating, except in what seemed 
to me the picture rather than the poem, the man chained 
to the rock, with the vultures swooping down upon him. 
Their cruel beaks I seemed to feel in my heart the 
moment I awoke. Ah me, alas! pain ever, for ever, 
God alone knows what was the anguish of these years. 



RELIEF FROM PAIN. 



147 



And yet now I think of ces beaux jours quand fetais si 
malheureuse, the moments of relief were so great and so 
sweet that they seemed compensation for the pain, — I 
remembered no more the anguish. Lately in my many 
sad musings it has been brought very clearly before 
my mind how often all the horrible tension, the dread, 
the anxiety which there are no words strong enough 
to describe, — which devoured me, but which I had to 
conceal often behind a smiling face, — would yield in a 
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of 
a voice, at the first look, into an ineffable ease and 
the overwhelming happiness of relief from pain, which 
is, I think, our highest human sensation, higher and 
more exquisite than any positive enjoyment in this 
world. It used to sweep over me like a wave, some- 
times when I opened a door, sometimes in a letter, — 
in all simple ways. I cannot explain, but if this should 
ever come to the eye of any woman in the passion and 
agony of motherhood, she will more or less understand. 
I was thinking lately, or rather, as sometimes happens, 
there was suddenly presented to my mind, like a sug- 
gestion from some one else, the recollection of these 
ineffable happinesses, and it seemed to me that it meant 
that which would be when one pushed through that last 
door and was met — oh, by what, by whom ? — by instant 
relief. The wave of sudden ease and warmth and peace 
and joy. I felt, to tell the truth, that it was one of them 
who brought that to my mind, and I said to myself, 
"I will not want any explanation, I will not ask any 
question, — the first touch, the first look, will be enough, 
as of old, yet better than of old." 

I do injustice to those whom I love above all things 
by speaking thus, and yet what can I say ? My dearest, 
bright, delightful boy missed somehow his footing, how 
can I tell how? I often think that I had to do with 
it, as well as what people call inherited tendencies, and, 
alas! the perversity of youth, which he never outgrew. 



148 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



He had done everything too easily in the beginning of 
his boyish career, by natural impulse and that kind of 
genius which is so often deceptive in youth, and when 
he came to that stage in which hard work was neces- 
sary against the competition of the hard working, he 
could not believe how much more effort was necessary. 
Notwithstanding all distractions he took a second-class 
at Oxford, — a great disappointment, yet not disgraceful 
after all. And I will not say that, except at the first 
keen moment of pain, I was in any way bitterly dis- 
appointed. Tout pent se reparer. I always felt so to 
the end, and perhaps he thought I took it lightly, and 
that it did not so much matter. Then it was one of 
my foolish ways to take my own work very lightly, 
and not to let them know how hard pressed I was 
sometimes, so that he never, I am sure, was convinced 
how serious it was in that way, and certainly never 
was convinced that he could not, when the moment 
came, right himself and recover lost way. But only 
the moment, God bless him! did not come till God 
took it in His own hands. Another theory I have thought 
of with many tears lately. I had another foolish way 
of laughing at the superior people, the people who took 
themselves too seriously, — the boys of pretension, and all 
the strong intellectualisms. This gave him, perhaps, or 
helped him to form, a prejudice against the good and 
reading men, who have so many affectations, poor boys, 
and led him towards those so often inferior, all inferior 
to himself, who had the naturalness along with the folly 
of youth. Why should I try to explain ? He went out 
of the world, leaving a love -song or two behind him 
and the little volume of "De Musset," of which much 
was so well done, and yet some so badly done, and 
nothing more to show for his life. And I to watch 
it all going on day by day and year by year! 

My Cecco took the first steps in the same way ; but, 
thanks be to God, righted himself and overcame — not 



BLINKS OF HAPPINESS. 



149 



in time enough to save his career at Oxford, but so as 
to be all that I had hoped, — always my very own, my 
dearest companion, choosing me before all others. What 
a companion he was, everybody who knew us knows: 
fall of knowledge, fall of humour — a most accomplished 
man, though to me always a boy. He did not make 
friends easily, and he had few; but those whom he 
had were very fond of him, and all our immediate sur- 
roundings looked up to him with an affectionate ad- 
miration which I cannot describe. " I don't know, 
but I will ask Cecco," was what we all said. He had 
not much more than emerged from the desert of temp- 
tation and trial, bringing balm and healing to me, 
when he fell ill. When his illness first was declared, 
it seemed to me that my misery was more than I 
could bear. I remember that we all went to the Holy 
Communion together the Sunday before we left for 
Pau, and that as I went up to kneel at the altar I 
was so nearly overcome, that Cyril put his hand on 
my arm and gripped it almost roughly to recall me to 
myself. And then the whole world seemed to come 
back again into the sun after a time; be got so much 
better, and the warm summer of the Queen's Jubilee 
year seemed to complete what Pau had begun. And 
he passed his examination for the British Museum, 
coming out first, and his life seemed now to be ordered 
in a safe place — in the work he loved. Alas I Then 
Sir Andrew Clark would not pass him, but other 
doctors gave the best of hopes. And he did a great 
deal of good work, and finally went to the Royal Library 
here; and we had many blinks of happiness, both in 
the winter on the Riviera and at home. I cannot tell 
what he was to me — consulting me about everything, 
desiring to have me with him, to walk with me and 
talk to me, only put out of humour when I was 
drawn away or occupied by other things. When he 
was absent he wrote to me every day. I never went 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



out but he was there to give me his arm. I seem to 
feel it now— the dear, thin, but firm arm. In the last 
four years after Cyril was taken from us, we were 
nearer and nearer. I can hear myself saying "Cecco 
and I." It was the constant phrase. But all through 
he was getting weaker; and I knew it, and tried not 
to know. 

And now here I am all alone. 

I cannot write any more. 



END OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



LETTERS 



LETTERS. 



Among the considerable number of letters from different 
correspondents which Mrs Oliphant left behind her, the 
earliest — or at any rate the earliest of any general interest 
— is from the redoubtable Francis Jeffrey. He was at 
the very end of his long and brilliant literary career when 
there came to him an offering — the first work of a young 
and unknown writer — which seems to have touched the 
springs of kindness and sympathy in a way very charming 
and attractive. 1 The letter of the old critic was, natur- 
ally, most highly valued by the neophyte. She seems 
never to have lost a sense of the pleasure it gave her ; and 
Jeffrey's death, shortly after she received it, made it even 
more of a relic. Here is the missive, sent to her through 
her publisher : — 

1850. 

To the Author of 'Passages in the Life of Margaret Maitland. 9 

Edinburgh, 5M January 1850. 
I was captivated by * Margaret Maitland* before the 
author came to bribe me by the gift of a copy and a too 
flattering letter — which I am now taking the chance of 
answering — though not trusted either with the name or 

1 Passages in the Life of Mrs Margaret Maitland. Colburn : London, 1849. 



154 



LETTERS. 



address of the person to whom I must express my grati- 
tude and admiration ! Nothing half so true or so touch- 
ing (in the delineation of Scottish character) has appeared 
since Gait published his 'Annals of the Parish ' — and this 
is purer and deeper than Gait, and even more absolutely 
and simply true. It would have been better though and 
made a stronger impression if it had copied Gait's brevity, 
and is sensibly injured by the indifferent matter which 
has been admitted to bring it up to the standard of three 
volumes. All about the Lectures and Jo Whang, and 
almost all about Reuben and the ladies at the Castle, 
is worse than superfluous; and even the youthful Poet 
and his allegory, though the creation of no ordinary 
mind, is out of place and de trop. 

The charm is in Grace and Margaret Maitland, and 
they and their immediate connections ought to have had 
the scene mostly to themselves. It is debased and pol- 
luted by the intrusion of so many ordinary characters. 
The conception of Grace, so original and yet so true to 
nature and to Scottish nature, is far beyond anything 
that Gait could reach ; and the sweet thoughtfulness and 
pure, gracious, idiomatic Scotch of Margaret, with her 
subdued sensibilities and genial sympathy with all inno- 
cent enjoyments, her ardent but indulgent piety, and the 
modest dignity of her sentiments and deportment, make a 
picture that does equal credit to the class from which it is 
taken and to the right feeling and power of observation of 
the painter. Claud perhaps is scarcely made thoroughly 
deserving of Grace, though it certainly must not have 
been easy to finish a male character either so highly or so 
softly as these two delightful females — and Mary, especi- 
ally in the later scenes, is nearly as good as they are. 

When I first read the book I settled it with myself that 
it was the work of a woman — and though there are pronouns 
in the letter of the author now before me which seem to 
exclude that supposition, I am so unwilling to be disabused 
of this first impression that I still venture to hope that it 
was not erroneous, and that these words were introduced 



INTRODUCTION TO ' MAGA.' 



155 



only to preserve the incognito which the author (though 
I am sure I cannot guess for what reason) seems still 
anxious to maintain. 

I have no wish certainly, as I have no right, to violate 
the incognito, but write now merely to return my humble 
and cordial thanks for the honour the author has done 
me, and to express the deep and most pleasing sense I 
have of the great merit of his (if it must be his) personnel, 
and with all good wishes transcribe myself the said 
author's very grateful and sincere humble servant, 

F. Jeffrey. 

After the date of this letter there is a gap of about two 
years, and then begins the long series of those written 
by Mrs Oliphant to the Blackwoods — chiefly to Mr John 
Blackwood, but also to Mr William Blackwood, the 
present head of the house ; to Miss Isabella Blackwood, 
with whom she maintained a very long and intimate 
friendship ; and to some of the younger members of the 
family. It may be permitted here to insert the account 
given by Mr John Blackwood himself, and noted down at 
the time by one of his hearers, of Mrs Oliphant's very 
first introduction to the pages of ' Maga.' On the 25th 
anniversary of that introduction Mr Blackwood and 
many of his old contributors were invited to spend a 
lovely summer day on Magna Charta Island, within 
a few miles of her house at Windsor, and to lunch on 
the spot where King John met his barons. Mr Black- 
wood began his short after-luncheon speech by a humor- 
ous parallel between the earlier sovereign and himself 
— the barons of Magna Charta and the bold barons 
of Blackwood ; then, falling into a more serious tone, 
passed on to relate the commencement of his acquain- 
tance with his hostess. He described the young woman 



LETTERS. 



new to literature and shy, but with the same bright 
eyes full of intelligence as in later years. " She talked 
to me," he said, " among other things, about Thackeray 
and Dickens, and I thought I had never heard anything 
better said. I asked her to write it down, and she did 
so ; and that was the beginning of her work for the 
Magazine." 

* Katie Stewart ' was the first book of Mrs Oliphant's 
published by the Blackwoods, and, as she has herself 
recorded elsewhere, the family adopted a fashion of 
speaking of her by the name of her heroine. 



'KATIE STEWART/ 



157 



1852. 

To Mr John Blackwood. Birkenhead, 4/A February. 

I am conscious that there is rather too much Scotch in 
particularly the first chapters of ' Katie Stewart 9 ; but 
considering the time and the rank of the characters, I 
think any alteration in this point would make the book 
less true. I think I mentioned before that there is no 
fiction in the history, except indeed in the introduction of 
some of the subordinate characters ; the incidents — all of 
them — are simply and strictly true : this, however, I am 
aware is quite a doubtful advantage, since it is somewhat 
difficult to be at once true in fact and true to nature — but 
Katie Stewart and Lady Anne Erskine were both of them 
real existences. 

Birkenhead, 25M March. 
Since you are so good as to repeat your offer for * Katie 
Stewart/ I shall merely accept it with thanks, trusting 
that your liberality will be justified by the success of the 
little book. 

Birkenhead, 26th April. 
This is the last week I shall spend in this place, and 
there are now very few days to spare. Do you still 
intend that the first number of my story should appear 
in the Magazine for May? 

This is the last letter signed M. O. Wilson. The 
proofs of * Katie Stewart ' were delivered to Mrs Oliphant 
on her wedding-day. 

Harrington Square, London, 29M May. 
I am sorry that the proof of ' Katie Stewart 9 should 
have been so long detained, and also that your remittance 
was not, I believe, properly acknowledged. It did not 
arrive until after I had left Birkenhead at a time when 



LETTERS. 



there was much commotion and business in the house- 
hold, and I trust you will excuse the omission on these 
grounds. I think I have done as much to prune the 
Scotch as was practicable without a complete change in 
many of the earlier scenes. I am, like my heroine, not 
much of a Jacobite ; and as I do not wish to claim loftier 
sentiments than she possessed for Katie Stewart, I must, 
I think, suffer her opinion of the Chevalier to remain as 
it is. I think it accords better with the character than 
anything of that imaginative poetic loyalty which seems 
to have belonged by some strange right of inheritance to 
those unhappy Stuarts. As to the Chevalier himself, 
my opinion of his face is formed from a youthful portrait 
taken before the vices of his later life could at all affect 
him. It may be that I judge wrongly of its expression — 
still I do judge so ; it is an honest opinion, and this also 
I think must stand as it is. ... I am obliged by your 
kind interest in Lady Anne, and should willingly give up 
the thin shoulders and the long arms ; but then these are 
fully balanced by good qualities which Katie Stewart does 
not profess to possess, and for the sake of contrast I must 
be content to do the good Lady Anne even a little injus- 
tice. She is loftier in many respects than her humble 
companion, and for the sake of due individuality Lady 
Anne must preserve her angles. 

The following letter, written by Mrs Wilson, Mrs 
Oliphant's much-beloved mother, to her brother, is in- 
teresting as showing how that vivacious old lady flung 
herself into her daughter's interests and enjoyed her 
successes : — 

August 22, 1852. 

' Katie Stewart ' seems to have made a great sensation. 
Maggie has had two letters lately from Mr Blackwood, 
both of them exceedingly kind ; the first saying that he 
had not said to any person who the author was, but that 



I854-] "FIFE IN A FERMENT." 1 59 

Sir Ralph Anstruther had written asking if he might 
know, whereat I was very proud, as it was a testimony 
to the truthfulness of my memory, his own grandmother 
being the Lady Janet. The reason Mr Blackwood gave 
for not saying who the author was, was that it might be 
good for her to have an anonymous reputation, — honest 
man, he little knew of * John Drayton ' and his neighbour, 1 
— and that the other contributors were Professor Wilson, 
Sir A. Alison, Sir E. Bulwer, and Samuel Warren, and 
he hopes she is pleased with her company. His next is 
still more gratifying : he says Fife is in a ferment, — that 
is, not our Fife but literary Fife, — and the authorship is 
divided between Sir Ralph Anstruther and Lord Lindsay. 

The letters of 1853 are again missing, but from the 
beginning of 1854 the supply is continuous. 

1854. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

I shall thank you very much for giving me an opportunity 
to say a kind word of Miss Mitford, and I have now got the 
books, and will send you an article, I daresay, within a 
week. But * Atherton ' is really and truly a new story, as 
avouched by Miss Mitford herself in her preface, and by a 
most confidential friend of hers, to whom I referred. 
She has long meditated writing it, and has had it, name 
and all, in her mind for many years ; but this past winter 
has produced the story written in great pain and weak- 
ness, a sort of last effort, as it seems. . . . The Professor's 
death must leave a wonderful blank in Edinburgh, but he 
has had a longer day and reign than falls to the lot of 
most. 

1 Novels published anonymously for the benefit of her brother William, 
which some ingenious critics have supposed to be written by him. 



l6o LETTERS. [1855. 



1855. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

I am afraid what you say about my labours is scarcely 
complimentary, but a naturally restless temperament 
makes it almost a necessary of life for me to be constantly 
occupied, and Providence has added just such an amount 
of pressure as makes it desirable for me to do what I can. 
The only thing I can grumble at in the matter is that 
now and then some one like yourself, whose good opinion 
I should be very sorry to lose, is disposed to blame me in 
consequence ; but I cannot help this, much as I regret it. 
The book ' Lilliesleaf ' has been announced for a month 
or more in Hurst & Blackett's list, though not by name. 
It is a continuation and conclusion of 'Mrs Margaret 
Maitland/ which is the reason, I should fancy, that its 
name is familiar to you, and is written by that old lady who 
terminates her existence in the act. I have long intended 
to conclude the series so, and (as I surely told you) 
designed * The Days of My Life 9 as the first of a new 
anonymous series, not desiring to be stereotyped as the 
author of 1 Mrs Margaret ' any more. 

'The Days of My Life,' I am sure, would not at all 
suit the Magazine. The book is less a story than a 
monologue, and though I have a kindness for it myself, I 
quite feel that it could not bear the ordeal of periodical 
publication. But — if you and your readers are not tired 
of me — I think I have something in my mind which 
might be made a tolerable successor to ' Zaidee.' Some 
time in the spring, if everything goes well in the mean- 
time, I shall speak to you of this; though I am some- 
times doubtful whether in your most manly and masculine 
of magazines a womanish story-teller like myself may not 
become wearisome. ... In the meantime, I have a great 
desire to say my say once upon the subject of poetry. I 



I855-] 



A GROUP OF NOVELISTS. 



161 



shall not touch upon anybody else's ground, but I wish 
very much to put in my word upon the Tennysons and 
Dobells ; and if it does not interfere with anything, 
would like much to follow my Art article with one on 
poetry. 

November 8. 

I had begun to Ruskin before I got your note; but 
what I say about him will not be at all like what has been 
already said in the Magazine, so that I do not think you 
would desire me to stop ; but I will not enlarge upon him, 
only he is an indispensable individual in any collection of 
mSn who are wiser than their neighbours. . . . 

I have been much amused already by the little com- 
motion which the appearance of Mr Steele in the late 
numbers of 'Zaidee' has made amongst sundry good 
people here. This character is a very slight sketch of our 
friend Lance the fruit-painter, whose wit and eccentrici- 
ties and goodness are very well known ; and it seems to 
have been already recognised by a great many. He has 
been told of it himself, and takes it very well. I shall 
have very great pleasure in making Colonel Hamley's 
acquaintance, and hope you will not forget your promised 
introduction. 

November 24. 

In respect to what you say of a review of ' Hard Times,' 
I thought, immediately after seeing you, of a plan I should 
like very well if it pleased you — to give you three short 
articles on Novels or Novelists : the first Bulwer, the 
second Dickens and Thackeray, and the third, the indis- 
criminate multitude of fictionists. Bulwer's cheap edi- 
tions would do very well for a text in the one case, and 
Dickens' ' Hard Times ' and Thackeray's new Christmas 
book (if it is good) in the other. 

..•••«*■ 

Since seeing Captain Blackwood yesterday I have read 
over 1 Night and Morning,' and put in a few words about 
it ; but I really do not feel that I can do more in con- 
science. For my own part, I think a true partisan of 

L 



1 62 



LETTERS. 



Bulwer's ought to drop all his intermediate works. To 
say the best of them that one can, they are still only 
novels — more interesting than many, and perhaps rather 
more objectionable than most — freaks of his genius, — 
whereas his last works show all the nobler qualities of a 
great mind. . . . 

I do not like Disraeli's works either, but they are 
always clever, and I wanted a poise for Warren. I wish 
I could have altered this article a little more, since you 
would have liked it, but indeed I do not feel that I could 
do it conscientiously. I think the later works as near 
perfect as possible, but I cannot be pleased with {he 
others. 



1856-57.] THE HISTORIAN OF SOPHISTICATION. 1 63 



1856. 

To Mr Blackwood. 7 Ulster Placb, Friday. 

About Macaulay, if you can give me a very late day I 
will try and be ready with a bit of him for the June num- 
ber. I say a bit, because I think I should like to try a 
more elaborate criticism than any I have done yet, pos- 
sibly reaching to two articles. I do not know whether 
there is anything in the Penn controversy, or how far 
Marlborough is defensible ; but I will send to Mr Lang- 
ford for Sir Archibald Alison's book, which is favourable 
to him, is it not ? Macaulay seems to me the historian 
of sophistication, a man who writes only and always for 
"society," and knows as little of any primitive existence 
as a New Zealander could know of Mayfair. Everybody 
admires him, of course, but nobody believes in him — at 
least, so far as my experience goes. 

I am sure you do not mean any harm ; but I must say 
that your suggestive glimpse of open windows facing St 
Andrews Bay is somewhat aggravating to people shut up 
in London in September; but for an invalid I get on 
tolerably well. The Queen of Oudh has had the polite- 
ness to bring her " troupe," which is a picturesque one, 
to the house next to us. I expect, accordingly, in a few 
days to be quite up in Eastern costume, and ready for 
anything in that way you may have on your hands. 



1857. 

I enclose the concluding proof of 'The Athelings.' 
* Charles V.' I will send after you on Monday, if that 
will do, as I trust it will. We set off on Saturday for 
Birkenhead, and I have innumerable babies' frocks to 



LETTERS. 



[185*- 



look after, begging your pardon for postponing the dig- 
nified demands of literature to such small considerations. 

December 21. 

I have intended for a few weeks back to ask you 
whether you thought you were likely to have an opening 
for a story of mine at or about Midsummer next. I have 
something in my mind which I daresay will get worked 
out by that time, and which I should like to send to you. 
I mention this so long beforehand because we have been 
making arrangements to go abroad at the end of next 
summer, and to spend the winter in Italy, the principal 
inducement being my husband's health, which has not 
been very strong lately, and which that I trust would set 
to rights. We shall require, of course, to make consider- 
able preparations for this. 

1858. 

We have quite made up our minds about going abroad, 
and are working towards that end now, — a troublesome 
operation enough, as it will be a temporary breaking up 
of our household. 

I enclose the proof : all my superlatives apply to Irving 
himself rather than to his genius. I knew nothing what- 
ever of him till his ' Last Days ' fell by chance into my 
hands. Try the * Orations ' and you will come over to 
my opinion : it is Irvingism which has smothered them, 
but Irvingism has very little in common with Irving. 

I agree partially with what you say about the Dis- 
ruption, — partially, for my prejudices are all on the other 
side. 

If you wish me to take up Mr Caird's Sermons I will 
be glad to do it. I think myself that there is a little 
want of human experience in them, — the troubles of this 
life — which one thinks the more of by a natural selfish- 
ness when one seems to have a double portion of them. 



1858.] THE SORROWS OF A COMPOSITOR. 165 



This deterred me from offering to review them, but I 
don't doubt that there are excellences which quite make 
up for this. 

I think it is rather a feather in my cap to have pro- 
duced a MS. undecipherable even to you : printers 
fortunately can read everything, 1 but I did not know 
the Christopher was worse than usual. We shall get 
away, I trust, in about three weeks. We should be glad 
of some kind of introduction to the English Minister at 
Florence, — could you help us in that? I daresay we 
could manage it otherwise, but you are in and influential. 

We were much obliged by the introduction you kindly 
obtained for us. Many thanks. I suppose we may con- 
sider the country specially pledged to pick us up out of 
all scrapes when we carry credentials from so great a 
person as the Foreign Minister. 

I have had some correspondence with Mr Drummond, 
and almost think we shall run down to Albury one day 
next week to see him. A dear old friend and relation of 
ours, who is the sister of the late Mrs Irving, is very 
anxious that I should undertake a life of Edward Irving : 
she has all the materials within her power. However, 
this is far in the future. But it makes me more dis- 
posed to find out what Mr Drummond has to say on the 
subject. 

We hope to get away next Saturday, Mr Oliphant 
having now got all his work completed and nothing but 
arrangements to make. 

We spent Wednesday and the morning of the next day 
with Mr Drummond. He is an interesting old man — I 

1 On the 19th of October 1872 Mrs Oliphant had seen reason to doubt the 
omniscience of printers. She writes to Mr Blackwood : •• You seem to have 
some wicked wag in the printing office whose performances are most bewil- 
dering. Fancy printing 'Troplemus* instead of 1 hopelessness * ! There is 
something in the interpolation of an unknown name spelt with a big capital 
that takes one quite aback. One feels it ought to be some classic personage 
worthy of veneration." 



LETTERS. 



[1858. 



have no doubt, as you say, a very good type of an English 
country gentleman, and almost too tempting a study for a 
novel-writer. To listen seriously while a man of indis- 
putable mind and knowledge of the world talks with the 
most serious good faith of people possessed with devils, 
and the manner of exorcising familiar spirits, is no small 
exercise of one's self-control, and a very piquant varia- 
tion upon ordinary life. I am afraid I am committed to 
the Life of Irving, which I think a noble subject, but I 
shall not think of entering upon it till we return. 

Mr Drummond lives rather in the grand style, his son- 
in-law and daughter, Lord and Lady Lovaine, sharing his 
household. He seems one of those happy men who are 
interested about everything, and ready to speculate upon 
any subject from an election up to the greatest of spiritual 
mysteries. These last formed the bulk of my conversa- 
tions with him, and his explanations were more odd than I 
can describe. He smiles at the mere idea of anything 
less than perfect belief of the Spiritual Utterances, which 
still, it appears, guide the Church which bears the name 
of Irving, but which has gone far beyond anything in his 
intentions — and assumes the reality of these with a con- 
fidence which one can only wonder at, though, I confess, 
under strong temptations to smile. He is evidently full 
of speculation of the oddest character, supported partly 
on very good sense and good reason, and partly by the 
most delightful non sequitur which takes away one's 
breath. He was extremely kind, as were his daughters. 
We spared the time with great difficulty, but I was glad 
we had done so. 

We will get away, I trust, some day next week, though 
I cannot exactly say which. Mr Oliphant has been and 
continues very indifferent in health, but we have great 
hopes from the doctor that he wants chiefly rest and 
change. 



1859.] THE IDENTITY OF GEORGE ELIOT— A GUESS. 167 



1859. 

To Mr Blackwood. Via Maggio, Florence. 

We are very curious and interested about 'Adam 
Bede,' which we see advertised and criticised in the 
' Athenaeum.' We shall be having a parcel sent out to 
us shortly, — might I ask for a copy ? — which if you will 
kindly send along with my copy of the Magazine to my 
brother, would be forwarded to me here, and would be 
a great gratification, as English books are not plentiful. 

... I am sure you must be very much gratified by the 
extraordinary success of 'Adam Bede.' I have never 
yet had an opportunity of getting the book sent out, so 
I am still ignorant of it, but the flutter of curiosity in the 
newspapers is sufficiently exciting. I don't want to pry 
into the secret, but pray tell me one thing: I cannot 
believe that the author of the ' Scenes of Clerical Life ' 
is a woman — is that extraordinary guess correct ? I shall 
feel quite satisfied if you say no. My husband, reading 
for the first time one of the first books of Anthony Trol- 
lope, thought he perceived a considerable resemblance in 
that writer to Mr Gilfil and the Rev. Amos Barton — but I 
will not ask you whether that guess edges upon the truth. 

We are shortly going into Rome for the winter — every- 
thing is quiet and going on as usual. What does any- 
body suppose is going to happen to this country ? These 
1 Times ' articles about Florence are very cruel and unjust 
so far as regards the visible habits of the people. They 
are very gay and idle certainly — how can they be other- 
wise ? but I know that many cadets of the best Floren- 
tine families went off long ago as volunteers to the 
Sardinian army, serving there as privates, and writing 
joyous letters home about their fatigues and privations, 
which is somewhat different from the account we see of 
them now. 



1 68 



LETTERS. 



[1859. 



The time of deep sorrow and struggle which followed the 
writing of this letter is described in the Autobiography, 
and need not be recapitulated here. Mr Oliphant died in 
Rome ; and six weeks later the baby son who, as he grew 
up, always retained his baby name, " Cecco," was born. 
It is hard to imagine anything more desolate than the 
young widow's position at this time, yet her letters show 
how bravely she kept up her heart, and how indefatigably 
she worked for the three little ones dependent on her. 
Perhaps one secret of her amazing power of work was 
that she never lost interest in the lives and work of other 
people. 

Babuino, December 17. 

I am very glad to let you know that I am likely to be 
soon better and on my way home. I have another baby 
son who is doing well also, and everything promises 
satisfactorily for us both. I hope soon to be able to 
make my acknowledgments of your kindness in a manner 
more satisfactory, and to resume work. 



i860.] 



' THE MILL ON THE FLOSS.' 



i860. 

To Mr Blackwood. Birkenhead, 6th March. 

I should like very much to put in a claim beforehand 
for the new book by the author of ' Adam Bede.' I wish 
very much you would tell me whether this mysterious 
personage is a woman. I shall feel very much humiliated 
if it is so, seeing I have staked my critical credit on the 
other side, and I fear shall scarcely believe it even if you 
tell me ; but my curiosity is great. Thank you very 
much for the Magazine — I am charmed with ' St 
Stephen's.' It is Sir Edward's, of course. 

2$rd March. 

Many thanks for your kind exertions in the matter of 
Hampton Court. I am sorry her Majesty does not 
think it worth while to exert her royal bounty on my 
behalf; but I had not placed my hopes very high. In- 
deed I wanted more a bond which should oblige me to fix 
some definite place to live in than the place itself. I feel 
my entire freedom of choice in this particular a very for- 
lorn liberty, and, always accustomed to consult another 
will, would be thankful now, when I have but my own to 
think of, to have an obligation or necessity, anything 
almost which would fix me to one place, without giving 
to my indolence and lassitude the pain of choice. I am 
very much obliged not the less by the kind trouble you 
have taken on my behalf. 

The article I trust you will let me postpone till next 
month. I have been falling out of one cold into another 
since ever I arrived here. The change of climate is very 
perceptible, and this is one of the windiest corners in all 
England ; so that I think I have gone through almost 
all the varieties of cold and influenza, and may now hope 
for a little exemption. 



170 



LETTERS. 



[i860. 



July. 

I send you enclosed the first chapter of ' Montalem- 
bert.' I think it very likely you won't like the execution, 
and pray don't hesitate in the least to say so, for I am 
not vain of my French, If, however, by chance you 
should think it would do, I shall like the work very well, 
and will have pleasure in undertaking it. But I beg you 
will not feel any delicacy in saying, if you think so, that 
the translation is too bad for using. I am quite pre- 
pared to believe as much. 

Elie, Fife. 

I send by this post the proof and French text. One 
or two of M. le Comte's corrections I rather object to, 
as mere substitutions of one word for another, not always 
(with humility) to the improvement of the sound. A 
glance at the proof will show you these, which I have put 
notes to. Thank you for your kind confidence in me: 
I will spare no trouble to improve the translation. 

Montalembert's corrections are very mild, I think ; his 
opinion is a different matter. I enclose his letter which 
you kindly sent me : it is not exactly the kind of auto- 
graph which one would ask to retain. If he mollifies, or 
his French politeness suggests some little bonbon of ap- 
proval afterwards, I will ask you for that as the autograph 
of so notable a person. If not, with your goodwill, I 
will take it out of him in the Magazine. It's consolatory 
to think that he can be cut up into little pieces so easily 
— never man surely left himself more open to criticism. 
Have you his book about England, which was translated, 
I think ? I should like to see the translation very much. 



i86i.] 



A HALTING POINT. 



171 



l86l. 

To Mr Blackwood. Fettks Row, Edinburgh. 

It would be affectation to say that I was not much dis- 
appointed and mortified by receiving your packet last 
night. I should be glad to console my amour propre by 
thinking that the stronger fare to which you are accus- 
tomed has given you a distaste for my womanish style. 
One finds it always odd somehow to account for being 
stupid in one's own person. But at all events I am not 
sulky. Greater people than me have had a run of fail- 
ures, and I shall still hope to recover myself. I write 
now to ask you whether it is any use to send you a 
revised version of the other condemned article. It would 
be, of course, a great salve and solace to my wounded 
soul, and if you are disposed to keep a corner open for 
me I would send it up to-night. But if not, it is a pity 
to give you the pain of rejecting another effort, which 
I am glad and obliged to be able to think is a pain 
to you. 

This is the moment already alluded to when Mrs 
Oliphant's work came to a kind of standstill. Worn out 
by sorrow and physical suffering, it is little short of 
miraculous that she was able to gather up her forces 
again, and with admirable success. She has told the 
story of these days in her Autobiography, and, briefly, 
in 'Annals of a Publishing House.' 

WlLLOWBURN, ROSENEATH. 

I am very glad, though I confess a little surprised, to 
find you speak so favourably of the little story 1 which I 
now return corrected. I had my fears about it when I 

1 "The Rector," 'Maga,' September 1861. 



172 



LETTERS. 



[x86i. 



sent it to you. I cannot tell you how much gratified and 
affected I am by what you kindly say of my writing. I 
take it as one of the most valuable compensations for a 
lot more laborious and heavily burdened than that of 
most of my neighbours, that Providence has given me 
friends who judge my endeavours so kindly : I should be 
forlorn enough else. But you were quite right in winter ; 
and if I do better now, I reckon it greatly to the account 
of your own family and my friends here who have taken 
the pains to shake me out of my shell. Though I retire 
into that tub again for the winter, I hope the brighter 
influences may not forsake me. ... I have got into a 
scrape with Mrs Hall, that most persevering of litterateurs. 
I gave her a morsel of a story on condition that it should 
be anonymous; and now she makes the most touching 
appeal to me as a personal favour for my name. I fear 
you will think a person whose name has to do penance in 
Mrs Hall's magazine most unworthy of the honour of 
appearing in ' Maga/ but it is only for once, and I cannot 
help it. 

Many thanks for your charming long letter. I return 
Buckle, and have done according to your orders, though 
it was not without compunction I interfered with your 
sentences, about which you appear quite too humble. 
You know I doA't agree with you about Carlyle, and am 
delighted to think I have the means of raising him in 
your estimation by telling you that he seems to have 
loved and honoured Edward Irving more than any other 
human creature. I don't know that I have ever been 
more gratified in my life than by your praise of this bit 
of biography. I feel quite exhilarated and set up in con- 
sequence, your previous truculencies having inspired me 
with the profoundest confidence in your judgment. The 
worst of it is that I feel a certain awe upon me in pro- 
ceeding, with dreadful doubts of keeping up to the mark, 
and the profoundest alarm lest I should lose the ground 
I have gained. ... I see a book mentioned in the papers 
which I should like very well, if agreeable to you, to take 



i86i.] 



A SURFEIT OF SERMONS. 



173 



up if it proved practicable. It is ' Recollections of Welby 
Pugin/ the famous architect. If you could let me do 
it I should be pleased. He was a great friend of my 
husband's. 

WlLLOWBURN, ROSENEATH. 

Your note of this morning put me in great spirits: 
I am more pleased than I can tell you that you approve 
of Irving. I have been in great doubt and trepidation, 
and am still alarmed lest further reading may change 
your opinion, but in the meantime thank you very 
much. . . . We all continue to enjoy the freedom of 
our primitive existence exceedingly, and have (for the 
West Country) wonderful weather. We had a most 
delightful excursion up Loch Long to Loch Lomond 
the other day. 

I have got what I suppose must be a curiosity of 
littleness in the shape of a house at Ealing near Lon- 
don, to which I am going with some regrets and doubts 
of my own wisdom — a quality of which I am never too 
confident. 

Would you please to send me the manuscript of 
Irving ? The London people would like to have it and 
put it in hand. I am getting on, I hope, with some 
success in the more difficult and delicate part of the 
Life, which I should be very glad to submit to you also. 
It is harder work than the first, and I trust you will 
sympathise with me in the terrible amount of sermons 
which I have to read and remember. If Irving had 
been an ordinary preacher I must have succumbed long 
ere now. 

To Miss Blackwood. 

My dear Donna Isabella, — Are you really going 
to Ross -shire? and if so, could we not meet and do 
Loch Katrine? on which my Cockney soul is still set. 
I should really like, having had my appetite whetted 
by the glorious three days, to see the Trossachs, which 



174 



LETTERS. 



[1861. 



would be done with only a single night's absence from 
home — especially in your charming society. . . . The 
flitting will be accomplished in less than a month now, 
but I have been somewhat appalled by hearing the size 
of the rooms. I fear the house must be tiny to an 
unexpected degree, therefore I beg you to prepare for 
the dread necessity of dispensing with crinoline when 
you come to see me. By all appearances I shall be in 
the most favourable circumstances for making great 
economies, as the French say — and don't you wish I 
may do it ! ... I want to know whether it has rained 
incessantly for a month at St Andrews. It has here; 
and, oh ! the dreariness of a persistent wet day with 
four children shut up in the house. Yesterday I plodded 
through the wet to hear Dr Robert Lee preach, and did 
not in the least like him — a galvanic cast-iron man, 
quite unworthy of a mile's walk through the rain. All 
the children are well. Tiddy (I really think I must 
begin to call him Cyril, his present name written is 
not euphonious) was much impressed by little John's 
quoting him as an example for roaring, a fact of which 
he has been duly and zealously reminded. 

To Mr Blackwood. Willowburn, 28M August. 

Now I want to ask you a great favour — do please 
look at young Story's book. Next time I send you 
anything I give you free leave to hang it up indefinitely 
between earth and heaven and take it out of me. But 
I shall take it as the greatest kindness if you will let 
the new pretender to your favour have his verdict — 
now pray be merciful. Once upon a time we too were 
young, and did not know whether we were to succeed 
or fail. I think that sentiment is worthy of you, and 
for the sake of that touching reminiscence, do, pray, 
grant me my prayer. You know an hour or two at 
it would determine your rapid (and always infallible) 
judgment. Do please, dear Mr Blackwood ! and I shall 



i86i.] 



THE FATIGUE OF STUPID SOCIETY. 



175 



be your devout bedeswoman — can you resist such a 
feminine appeal? 

To Miss Blackwood. 

To-day Mrs Tulloch and I have had a little maternal 
picnic with all our chicks at the head of the loch. We 
had the servants with us, but nobody else, and had a 
great success, the children enjoying themselves to the 
top of their bent. I have not been at Shandon at lunch 
to-day, though you say I was to go. I had declined, 
not seeing very well how I could get away. The day 
has been glorious — staying indoors was quite impracti- 
cable, so I took my work outside, the first time for 
many weeks. I scarcely think I ever saw the Gareloch 
look so beautiful, but it begins to get cold, and not- 
withstanding all its attractions the wandering impulse 
is once more upon me, and I long to be off again, 
though only to the prim retirement of Ealing. I shall 
look forward to your visit even more pleasantly than 
you kindly say you do. It will be something to think 
of during the winter, which I expect I shall spend dole- 
fully enough. ... I can't get on with my work just 
now, after having been packed up and made uncom- 
fortable by my domestic tyrant, Jane, and miss my 
Maggie mightily; so that I am extremely useless and 
good for nothing, and a little friendly abuse would do 
me good. Many thanks for your former letter. You 
are very right about the blessing of a spirit that re- 
bounds. What should I do else ? with all my toils and 
necessities. 

You have all spoiled me for stupid society, do you 
know ? I had an experiment the other day, being obliged 
to visit some people in Greenock, and the fatigued con- 
dition in which I came home is something indescribable. 
How am I to endure Ealing? I begin to be appalled 
when I think of it. In ordinary circumstances I am 



176 



LETTERS. 



[1861. 



stupid enough for anything in my own person, but your 
exhilarating and stimulating society makes dulness dread- 
ful. I feel a premonition of the forlorn sensations that 
will steal over me, of the fond thoughts which will revert 
even to Fettes Row. Ah me ! Why are you all so bright 
and all the London side of the question so stupid ? When 
I get into my doll's house I hope your thoughts will 
dwell upon me sympathetically sometimes. It will be 
hard enough, even without any considerations of society, 
settling down among the familiar things under circum- 
stances so different. Just now, as for the last two years, 
always moving about and changing from one place to 
another, everything has seemed exceptional. I shall 
seem to be setting out anew upon the dread reality when 
I get settled. However, I must comfort myself with the 
economies which you don't believe in. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

I am very sorry to hear of your accident, which cer- 
tainly, however, must have been a trick of Apollo— isn't 
he the patron of your trade? — in the interests of literature. 
I will give your message to Mr Story, who is at present 
suffering all those qualms of fear and hope and suspense 
common to literary aspirants, and regarding you, I sup- 
pose, as I remember doing, as a mysterious fate whose 
decisions are as absolute as they are inscrutable. The 
pangs you inflict upon poor authors ought to overshadow 
your dreams ; only I fear our sighs and sorrows awake 
but little emotion in the flinty editorial bosom. 

To Miss Blackwood. Ealing, October 11. 

I like biography. I have a great mind to set up that as 
my future trade and tout for orders. Do you know any- 
body that wants his or her life taken? Don't fail to 
recommend me if you do. In the meantime, however, 
Mr Blackett is printing another novel of mine written in 
Edinburgh last winter — should you care for a copy ? 
And speaking of novels, tell me if you like the 4 Doctor's 



i86i.] 



FRENCH NOTIONS OF COPYRIGHT. 



177 



Family.' I thought it rather a failure myself, to start 
with, till your brother's approbation raised it in my 
opinion. 1 

We have shaken down on the whole very comfortably 
into the new nutshell. J. M. is a great help and comfort 
to me, and if not brilliant, an exceedingly sweet good girl, 
much more lovable than those dreadful clever people 
whom you and I equally appreciate. Maggie, I think, is 
going to school. 

Sunday Evening, 

Though it is again Sunday evening I don't write in the 
perfect state of quietness which the words suggest. My 
circumstances are as follows : Tiddy is seated behind me, 
or rather on the arm of the easy-chair which I occupy, 
and is driving it for a cab, so if you see any sudden jerks 
in this letter you will know the cause. The table is 
heaped with picture-books, and Maggie, rather senti- 
mental with a bad cold, is reading Mrs Jameson's 
Legends of the Saints, so there you have a peep of our 
interior. Good J. is at church, under the guardianship of 
my able-bodied factotum, and I am taking my moment 
of leisure to write to you. 

Thank you very much for your letter. Why don't you 
tell me the plans you have in your mind* for the termina- 
tion of my story ? It will not be finished till the January 
number. Now that you have read a little more of it, you 
will see that I want to represent one of my women as a 
fool, which character, I think, wants elucidating, and has 
not received its due weight in the world of fiction. As for 
your question about whether I think a woman sure to dis- 
like one of her own sex who comes out when she cannot, 
I answer most decidedly no. There are many women 
who, obliged to be inactive themselves, follow the labours 

1 Many years later the family at Windsor were greatly amused by the dis- 
covery in the 'Revue des Deux Mondes' of "The Doctor's Family," not 
exactly translated, but "rendered " (without any notice of its origin) by the not 
very appropriate method of making the doctor tell his own story. Those who 
remember Dr Rider will understand that it was really funny. 

M 



i 7 8 



LETTERS. 



[1861. 



of other women with such generous sympathy and admira- 
tion as makes me feel very small when I think of it. To 
be perfectly candid, I don't think I could do it, otherwise 
than very imperfectly, myself. I imagine I should find it 
very hard to play second for any length of time, or in the 
estimation of anybody I much cared for ; but I do believe 
there are many women who can do that most magnani- 
mous of acts, and I honour them accordingly. But 
recollect my secondary character in the present instance 
is a fool. I am charmed to have your criticism. Without 
being sentimental in the least on this subject, I have 
nobody belonging to me now to do me that good office, 
and you could not possibly do me a greater kindness than 
by pulling me up whenever you dislike my work and 
giving me the benefit of your freest criticism. I mean 
every word of what I say. Sometimes I find it totally 
impossible to form any opinion of what I have done, and 
send it off in hopeless perplexity, not knowing whether it 
is good or bad ; so speak out, I beg of you, Isabella mia, 
and be quite sure that you will always do me a service by 
so doing. You shall have an early copy of the new novel, 
which I know you will cut to pieces. I have tried my 
hand in it at a wicked woman, and the reason why, as you 
say, I give softness to men rather than to women, is 
simply because the men of a woman's writing are always 
shadowy individuals, and it is only members of our own 
sex that we can fully bring out, bad and good. Even 
George Eliot is feeble in her men, and I recognise the 
disadvantage under which we all work in this respect. 
Sometimes we don't know sufficiently to make the outline 
sharp and clear; sometimes we know well enough, but 
dare not betray our knowledge one way or other: the 
result is that the men in a woman's book are always 
washed in, in secondary colours. The same want of 
anatomical knowledge and precision must, I imagine, pre- 
clude a woman from ever being a great painter ; and if 
one does make the necessary study, one loses more than 
one gains. Here is a scientific lecture for you ! Did not 



i86i.] 



CHRONICLES OF CARLINGFORD. 



179 



you call me a blue-stocking, and am I not proving my 
title to be called so? 

To Mr Blackwood. November 4, 1 861. 

I send you with this the third part of the 'Doctor's 
Family.* One number more will conclude it. But I 
should like to go on with a succession of others under the 
main title of ' Chronicles of Carlingford,' if it so pleases 
you. . . . My cares, as you can easily understand, 
came up by express before me, and were waiting my 
arrival. However, they were not such as appalled me, 
only the certainty of having a little reserve on which I 
could draw would be a comfort. If you will think this 
over and let me know I shall be very glad. I should con- 
tinue to send you the said stories part by part only ; for I 
think it seems to succeed better that what is read bit by 
bit should be written in the same way. One looks more 
carefully to one's points, and by dint of requiring to keep 
up one's own interest, has a better chance of keeping up 
one's reader's. Your approbation lately has given me 
great encouragement : a person in my position feels afraid 
to say much on the subject of her own cares and pros- 
pects, lest it should look like an appeal for sympathy ; but 
at the same time it was cheerless work last winter, when 
necessity and failure came in such forlorn conjunction. 
Notwithstanding, fortunately, I could not help being 
hopeful if I tried ; and indeed I suppose the over-exuber- 
ance of that quality must have wanted all the heavy 
weight I have had to keep me steady. However, this has 
nothing to do with the matter in hand. ... I should like 
to send you perhaps three more stories of equal length 
with the 4 Doctor's Family,' and fill up with shorter ones 
if you approve. 

I enclose proof of * Pugin.' Just one word in reference 
to your note about his being sent to Bedlam. He was 
actually sent, as pauper lunatics are, by what extraordi- 
nary chance or device of Satan nobody knows. Ferrey in 



i8o 



LETTERS. 



[1861. 



the Life admits without apparently being in the least able 
to explain the fact ; and all the little world which knew 
Pugin is entirely aware of it. He was removed only when 
a commotion was made about it in the papers, and Lord 
John Russell wrote to the ' Times ' offering £ 10 to a sub- 
scription in his favour, and nobody has ever attempted to 
explain the mystery. 

May I get Ruskin's late volumes of ' Modern Painters ' 
from Mr Langford ? I have got the ' Life of Turner/ but 
I believe the last of these volumes is much occupied with 
that strange, shabby divinity. I suppose it does not much 
matter in choosing a god what sort of creature it is you 
choose, as persistent worship seems always to gain a 
certain amount of credit for the object of it. 

I heard something about your friend George Eliot the 
other day from my friend Mrs Carlyle (wife of that great 
Tom whom you have set your heart so entirely against). 
Her opinion, I am sure, will amuse you. She says " Mrs 
Lewes 99 has mistaken her r6le — that nature intended her 
to be the properest of women, and that her present equiv- 
ocal position is the most extraordinary blunder and con- 
tradiction possible. 

I am rather anxious at present about my youngest little 
boy, who has hurt the bone of his arm by a fall, and is 
quite crippled by it. 

To Miss Blackwood. Ealing. 

When I say I shall be glad to have you, and will enjoy 
your coming, I mean the words not to their scantiest but 
to their fullest extent, which is the utmost demonstration 
of attachment that my constitution permits me to make. 
The doll's house is as follows : A little hall from which 
open two little rooms, one on either side, two windows in 
each : one, the drawing-room, with a little balcony open- 
ing into the garden ; the other looking across another little 
bit of garden into the road ; both very bright and nice, 
capable of entertaining some half-dozen very select and 
congenial convives. Up-stairs two rooms exactly the same 



i86i.] 



EALING. 



I8l 



size, and very good size, considering the locality, for bed- 
rooms. Up above these, very tolerable attics; and a 
nursery on the basement floor, already plastered all over 
with pictures, and inhabited by a rocking-horse, a world 
of broken toys, and the three chicks, monarchs of all they 
survey. The garden is a long, narrow strip of ground, 
but things grow in it notwithstanding — strawberries, 
currants, &c, a hope of peaches, and in the foreground 
undeniable roses. On the whole, I am quite pleased with 
the tiny place, which seems entirely adapted to my con- 
dition and estate. 



LETTERS. 



[1862. 



1862. 

To the Rev. R. H. Story. 

Thank you for giving me something to talk to you 
about this Sunday evening, which is of all times the one 
I like best for letter-writing. I was extremely glad to 
get your MS. ... I have of course some small criticisms 
to make, but none of importance. ... Is it quite neces- 
sary to mention distinctly Maurice and F. W. Robertson 
as leaders of the " Advance of Christian Thought " ? We 
have all a prejudiced unreasonable world to deal with, 
and you may possibly have enough to do to answer for 
your own thoughts without taking the burden of other 
people's. This is mere female cowardice, you understand, 
and you will take it for what it is worth. To rush into 
premature collision with prejudice and the old world is 
not any way desirable. Pardon me ! I am aware I am 
speaking dreadful poltroonery, not to speak of the out- 
rageous presumption of counselling on such a subject my 
spiritual guide of recent days ; but notwithstanding that 
inferior feminine and lay position, I am, you must admit, 
your senior by some of the hardest years of life, and I so 
entirely wish you the best and brightest of fortunes that 
you will forgive me whether you relish my advice or not. 
I have done nothing more to Irving, but have been busy 
upon the ' Doctor's Family,' the end of the stupid story 
in Mrs Hall's magazine, and a paper on Pugin, the archi- 
tect. That is all I have accomplished since I came here : 
very poor work, but interrupted by perpetual consulta- 
tions about carpets, chintzes, bookcases, &c, and how to 
put the doll's house becomingly tidy. It does not look so 
bad now it is done, but, oh me ! the society ! Fancy a 
man calling those two wonderful angels of the San Sisto 
Madonna cupids ! I did not faint — a fact which ought to 
be recorded to the honour of female nerves and fortitude. 



i8fe.] 



A BUOYANT MIND. 



I»3 



To Miss Blackwood. 

I was plunged into dismay by your last letter. What 
kind of a dissipated life you mean to lead me into with 
your "charming little luncheon" in Jermyn Street and 
journeys to Brighton is more than I can make out. 
What is to become of my small family if you demoralise 
their mother ? Since J. left I have got more entire pos- 
session of my chicks, and they are not at all bad com- 
pany. Maggie is improving, and makes a nice little 
companion, and on the whole I find life very endurable 
in their society. ... I don't yet know exactly when the 
book of the season, as you so flatteringly call it, is to be 
out ; but I have been half killed with proofs, and am just 
about finishing. I don't expect you to like it. However, 
there is no use anticipating evil. I do believe I have 
done my best, and the issue will most likely be more 
critical and important to me and my bairnies than any- 
thing I have ever done. For their sakes I regard with a 
little awe and trembling this new step into the world. 
When by any chance I look gravely forward, which 
happily for me is a thing my temperament does not much 
oblige me to, the prospect sometimes appals me more 
than is quite consistent with all these absurd letters, 
laughters, &c. But I don't suppose I could have existed, 
much less made progress, but for the buoyancy with 
which I have been mercifully endowed beforehand. But 
in every way this Irving publication is an important one 
for me. I am obliged to write in haste, and as Checchino 
is with me and hammering with all his might, I trust you 
will put down any little incoherencies in this epistle to 
his small score. 

The weather already begins to brighten delightfully, 
and I have made my own room, which is very sunny and 
cheerful, my study. I begin to like this little place : it is 
intensely tame, of course, but has a kind of village aspect 
and a wealth of those green lanes which do not seem 
practicable out of England, when one has any time to 
walk. . . . What preposterous thing do you imagine I 



184 



LETTERS 



[1862. 



am doing in the midst of my serious labours ? Writing a 
little drawing-room play, founded upon a most ludicrous 
real incident, and called " The Three Miss Smiths." 

Thank you very much for liking the Pugin paper. I 
am not badly pleased with it myself. I begin to think 
biography is my forte ! It is very pleasant work, at least. 
... I am just about to launch into the life of Turner the 
painter — old beast — in which I hope I shall give you equal 
satisfaction. ... I have just finished the 'Doctor's 
Family/ and don't at all like the termination. Some- 
times one's fancies will not do what one requires of 
them, and when that happens it is excessively dis- 
heartening and unpleasant. 

A very affectionate young lady friend is distressing. I 
get alarmed when I throw myself back in my chair and 
take a moment's rest, lest I should have sudden arms 
thrown round me, and be kissed and embraced without 
any warning. All very well, you know, when there is any 
occasion, but to have a caress always impending over 
you is highly alarming and not comfortable. 

I have been in the most dreadful pressure of work 
finishing my Irving book, and now I am snowed up with 
proofs. I must say in confidence that I should be much 
disappointed if this book does not make some little com- 
motion. There never was such a hero — such a princely, 
magnanimous, simple heart. 

To the Rev. R. H. Story. 

After Irving is well out of hands I mean (but this in 
the profoundest confidence) to disclose the tribulations of 
a historian in search of information to the sympathetic 
world. ... I fear I don't follow you in your benevolent 
aspirations for the benefit of his Satanic Majesty. I 
don't see my way to the reformation of a vast intellectual 
impersonation of wickedness. So far as we have any 
light upon the character of that great spirit, it is all mind 
and no heart; and how can you convert an intellect? 
Perhaps that after-act of the great drama is reserved for 



1862.] A COMPLIMENT REPUDIATED. 



another dispensation, but I confess that to me the 
annihilation of evil is a mystery still greater than its 
origin. The idea of puzzling one's female brains over 
anything of the kind ! That is luckily your business, my 
dear young friend, and not mine : * mine is to tell mild 
stories of which the superior intelligence is indulgently 
critical, and which have some attractions for minds only 
partially accessible to reason. 

To Miss Blackwood. 

Now about your literary questions, scoffer! Know 
that I read everything (except the politics, — I am a 
Radical, you know) which has the honour of appearing 
in ' Maga.' And I like some of David Wingate's poems 
very much, other some I don't particularly care for; 
"My Little Wife" is delightful. . . . The previous por- 
tion of this note up to the above mark was written at 
two o'clock a.m. this Sunday morning, at which period 
it was interrupted by the sudden waking up and vigorous 
summons of my Cecchino, who shares my room with me. 
He is getting the funniest little passionate fellow im- 
aginable — but this by way of parenthesis. I am rather 
curious to know whether Mr John will do me that 
friendly office which he has done to almost all his con- 
tributors except myself, I mean get me a review. I shall 
enjoy a little leisure when you come. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

Much exhilarated by your favourable judgment. I had 
almost written you yesterday a note at which you would 
have laughed, being a protestation called forth by an 
article in the 'Saturday Review.' That discriminating 
critic, as you will most likely have seen, announces that 
the 4 Chronicles of Carlingford ' can be written by nobody 
but George Eliot — a high compliment to me, no doubt ; 
but women, you know, according to the best authorities, 
never admire each other, and I mean to protest that the 
faintest idea of imitating or attempting to rival the author 



LETTERS. 



[1862. 



of 'Adam Bede' never entered my mind. I hope you 
don't think so. This protest is made for my private 
satisfaction, and because I should not like you to think 
me guilty of imitation or of any intention that way. 
Critics as a race are donkeys, and may say what they 
please. 

I must say I think the ' Woman in White ' a marvel of 
workmanship. I found it bear a second reading very 
well, and indeed it was having it thrown in my way for a 
second time which attracted so strongly my technical 
admiration. . . . Dickens is not a favourite of mine ; I 
think it would go against the grain to applaud him highly 
in his present phase. 1 I had the pleasure of dining at Mr 
Warren's the other day in humble attendance upon your 
sister. He came out famously, showed me the manu- 
script of 'Ten Thousand a- Year,' and was as amusing 
as possible. Such simple-minded and effusive vanity is 
charming at first sight. We are going to look up old 
David Roberts, whom I know a little, after Miss Black- 
wood returns from Brighton. 

From Mrs Carlyle to Mrs Oliphant. 

5 Cheynk Row, Chelsea. 

Darling Woman,— Already the Exhibition has borne 
me the fruit of one Scotch cousin, who will be coming 
and going all this week, and I have other things laid on 
my arms, like the baby in the omnibus! And on the 
whole I fear I must put off my visit to you till the week 
following. But if you will name any day of that, I shall 
take care that no pigs run through it, D.V. 

I do long to see you to tell you, not what J think of 
your book but what Mr C. thinks, which is much more to 
the purpose ! I never heard him praise a woman's book, 
hardly any man's, as cordially as he praises this of yours ! 
You are " worth whole cartloads of Mulocks, and Brontes, 
and things of that sort." "You are full of geniality 
and genius even " ! " Nothing has so taken him by the 

1 After the publication of 'Great Expectations.' 



i8fe.] 



CARLYLE ON MRS OLIPHANT. 



18 7 



heart for years as this biography " ! You are really 
"a fine, clear, loyal, sympathetic female being." The 
only fault he finds in you is a certain dimness about 
dates and arrangements of time I — in short, I never heard 
so much praise out of his head at one rush ! and I 
am so glad! 

For me, I am not in a state to express an opinion yet, 
having read only here a little and there a little, in which- 
ever volume Mr C. was not occupied with, and admit " a 
pressure of things 99 ! — all the worse for being trivial 
things. But to-morrow I shall begin at the beginning. 
Mr C. got to the end last night, and the last part was the 
best of all, he says; and that he is "very glad — very 
glad indeed that such a biography of Edward Irving ex- 
ists." Now tell me a day next week, if you are to be at 
home and leisure, and believe that I love you very much, 
and try to love me a little. J. W. Carlyle. 

To Mr Blackwood. Ealing. 

My dear Mr Blackwood, — I am perfectly charmed 
to hear that you continue to like ' Salem.' I am afraid 
the machinery I have set in motion is rather extensive 
for the short limits I had intended. The second part 
should have reached you before now but for my baby's 
illness, but I hope the little fellow is mending, and that 
I shall be able to send it off in a day or two. . . . 

I am delighted with your approbation. I mean to 
make what one of the poor London painters despised by 
the Academy calls an 'it if I can with this story. Did 
you go to Osborne ? The Prince Consort paper is beauti- 
fully got up, and a credit to us all who have the honour 
of being included under the mantle of ' Maga.' I am 
proud of having my own verses appended to anything so 
graceful and fine. 1 

I am the most mild and placable of women and 
authors, but at the same time your report of Lewes's 
criticism on my paper strikes me, now I think of it, as 

1 "The Nation's Prayer," * Maga,' January 1862. 



LETTERS. 



[1862. 



mighty impertinent. I don't take offence, but I think 
I have as much right to the due consideration of my 
standing and age in literature as if I were asserting my- 
self in society, or even had done something equivocal 
to pique the curiosity of the world. I have never taken 
much credit to myself nor cared overmuch for it, but I 
know I have done as much honest work in my day as 
most people of my years; and patronising approbation 
of the kind you told me of does not quite suit me. 

I am, as you may imagine, delighted with your letter 
and verdict upon ' Salem.' After all you have kindly 
said on the subject I get so nervous, and am haunted 
with such a conviction that this luck is much too good to 
last, that I bewilder myself and fall into panics over 
every chapter. I suspect some kind fairy has thrown 
glamour in your eyes. 

I have just been expressing my congratulations to Mr 
William. I hope to do so, if I live so long, on the still 
more auspicious occasion when the " little Editor," who, 
I have a conviction, was specially born for the Magazine, 
takes up the old ensign, till which time all glory and 
prosperity to the flag which has braved for how many ? 
years the battle and the breeze. I hope by that time I 
shall have a cadet too, able to do better work than his 
mother. 1 

I spent last evening with Thomas Carlyle, whom I am 
sorry you don't like, but whom I do like heartily and 
more than ever. He has added to all his great qualities 
a crowning touch of genius — he likes my book ! and has 
spoken of it in terms so entirely gratifying that for the 
space of a night and day I was uplifted, and lost my 
head. He was at home and alone, with his clever and 
original wife, and I never was more delighted with any 
man. I am ready henceforth to stand up for all those 
peculiarities which other people think defects, and to do 
battle for him whenever I hear him assailed. 

1 The 44 HtUe Editor n died in 1881. Cyril Oliphant died in 189a 



1862.] 



A HARD FIGHT. 



You have given me too much money for my little 
paper. I am very glad it pleases you, but you have been 
too liberal, and I feel uncomfortable with overpay. 

How delightful are Sir Edward's [Lytton's] Essays. 
One seems to see his own special creation, the accom- 
plished man of the world, not entirely worldly, a quint- 
essence of social wisdom and experience, sweetened by 
imagination. I don't know whether he is actually such a 
man himself. I suspect not by a long way so good as 
Alban Morley and the others, of whom the Essays seem 
to me a kind of embodiment over again. 

To Mr William Blackwood. 

Let me congratulate you on the pleasant news Mr John 
sends me, that you have become one of the actual pillars 
of the house. I trust it may go on prospering to the 
highest height of the good wishes of "our connection," 
which I am sure have no bounds but possibility, and that 
the young generation may be as kind, genial, and strong 
as their predecessors — like a woman I put the softer 
qualities first. 

To Mr Blackwood. December 12. 

The only possible objection I can have to make to your 
proposal about ' Salem ' is that it is too favourable to me. 
I have, however, to ask you, if it is not disagreeable to 
you, to divide the five hundred pounds which you are 
going to pay me into two halves, to let me have one of 
the said halves at Christmas — that is, now — and to make 
the payment of the other contingent on the success of 
' Salem.' I have had rather a hard fight, and without 
having the faculty of economics much in me, which of 
course makes it all the harder and diminishes any little 
complacency one might have in one's work. I cannot thank 
you for the way in which you have stood by me through 
my troubles. But for that I must have given in at 
sundry times when the sky was darkest ; but that debt is 
one which I am glad to bear and proud to acknowledge. 



190 LETTERS [1863. 



1863. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

I am very glad you like " David Elginbrod," and my 
anxiety to get the article admission I may explain by 
telling you that it was at my urgent recommendation 
(having read the MS- and made such humble suggestions 
towards its improvement as my knowledge of the literary 
susceptibility made possible) that Mr Blackett published 
it ; and that the author is not only a man of genius but a 
man burdened with ever so many children, and, what is 
perhaps worse, a troublesome conscientiousness; so please, 
if you are persuadable, let me have my way this time, and 
I will assault or congratulate, haul down or set up, any- 
body your honour pleases hereafter. 

I asked Mr Langford to get me ' Savonarola/ which he 
did, I can't see any objection in respect to George Eliot, 
for what I do would, of course, only be a biographical 
sketch and no way interfere with her ; but the idea had 
never occurred to me. I don't think there's anything in 
it ; for he is by no means the hero or leading character in 
her book, and indeed so far has only been brought in as 
the inevitable priest in a medieval novel. However, I will 
do as you like about that. 

I am delighted with Kinglake: 1 has he steered quite 
clear of action for libel, or is it not within the bounds of 
possibility that you may be defendants in an imperial 
plea? Such a concentration of suave hatred, malice, 
and uncharitableness surely never was. The narrative 
is perfectly delightful. It reminds me more of the oral 
narrative of a perfect speaker, perfectly master of his 
subject, than anything I ever saw in print. 

1 'The Crimean War.' 



1863.] CAPTAIN SPEKE'S LITERARY DIFFICULTIES. 191 



St Andrews, 
Tuesday Morning, ft-past 1 o'clock. 

I see nothing possible to be done with this terrible 
muddle of your unspeakable Captain [Speke] but to re- 
write it. I send you enclosed a small specimen. If this 
sort of thing will do, it would be better for him (if he will) 
to bring me the MS. and to give me oral elucidations page 
by page, and I will put it in shape accordingly. As for 
the improper bits, you two must do them up yourselves, 
and I will undertake that the rest shall be articulate. 
Between ourselves, the corrections are worse than the 
text ; and this is the only way that I see any possibility 
of making it presentable. If he does not mind being 
translated, and you approve, and the gallant Captain 
remains at hand to explain and describe, I daresay I 
could get through quantities of it while I am here, with- 
out injury to the " Perpetual Curate," who is the sharer 
of my inmost thoughts. But I don't see what can be 
done otherwise. Perhaps you will let me know what you 
think. 

18M May. 

I am very much comforted and exhilarated by your 
favourable opinion of his Reverence. He is a favourite of 
mine, and I mean to bestow the very greatest care upon 
him ; but I think, if it suits you, I should rather like the 
first part to appear next month. Though I am not sure 
that I approve of it in theory, it seems to suit me in 
practice, and the publication and the talk stimulates and 
keeps me up. Very likely this is because I have nobody 
at home nowadays to talk it over with ; but I think it is 
for the advantage of the work to be written just as it is 
published ; and I see my way, and am not afraid that you 
will tread too closely upon my heels. I think I have 
materials in my hands for a little exhibition of all the 
three parties in the Church. I mean my curate's brother 
to go over to Rome, and we will not be neglectful of the 
claims of Exeter Hall. As to his own position, a per- 
petual curacy is independent, but it is because Mr Went- 



192 



LETTERS. 



[1863. 



worth is working in the parish with which he has nothing 
to do, and which it is in reality high treason for any one, 
even the bishop, to interfere with, that he comes under 
the rector's displeasure. So good an Anglican would 
never have taken such a step but for the sanction of the 
late rector, which I think may be held to justify Mr 
Wentworth for carrying on his work until he is abso- 
lutely interdicted by the new incumbent. 

It is rather hard to be interdicted from other work — you 
must let me do a little now and then, for the disease has 
got to be chronic with me, and I must work or die ; not 
to speak of the daily — nay, hourly — necessity of bread and 
butter, and the determined disinclination of my small 
steeds to wait till the grass grows. I wish they would 
with all my heart: it would simplify matters greatly. 

In the autumn of this year, 1863, Mrs Oliphant went 
with her two friends, Mrs Tulloch and Mrs Macpherson, 
to Rome. The earlier part of the winter there must have 
been very cheerful. Mrs Tulloch had taken with her the 
two eldest of her daughters, girls a little older than 
Maggie Oliphant, while Mrs Oliphant had her three 
children, all well and bright. The two mothers shared 
a house, as Mrs Oliphant has told us in her Auto- 
biography; and it was there that the eleven-years-old 
girl — her mother's one daughter and most beloved little 
companion — was suddenly struck down. After only a 
very few days of illness she was laid beside her father in 
the English cemetery. 

No wonder that at this time there is a gap in the long 
series of Mrs Oliphant's correspondence. She probably 
wrote no letters that could possibly be avoided, until in 
the spring of 1864 she had removed with her little boys, 
and the two girls, who had been her child's beloved 
companions, to Capri. 



THE VOICE OF GRIEF. 



193 



1864. 

To Miss Blackwood. Hotel Quisisana, Capri, May 15. 

It is not because I am careless or don't appreciate 
your kindness in writing to me that I have been so slow 
to answer your letters. There are some exercises of 
patience and self-denial that are possible, and some that 
are beyond my powers. I have managed to regain 
possession of myself in the presence of other people, and 
no longer obtrude my sorrows on the strangers I meet ; 
but when I am by myself and begin to write I am no 
longer capable of keeping on the veil. When my mind 
is full of one subject I cannot keep from expressing it, 
and I know that the monotonous voice of grief grows 
soon tiresome even to one's dearest friends. We have 
been here about six weeks, and I am better than I was ; 
if not more resigned as people say, at least more accus- 
tomed to the impossible life to which God has seen fit, 
He alone knows for what mysterious reason, to ordain 
me. The very possibility of becoming accustomed to it 
is one of its bitterest aggravations. One feels as if, 
having survived such a blow, one could survive anything 
and everything, and that the worthless life would still 
hold out although all that made it worth having was 
withdrawn. I sicken at it every morning when it comes 
back, but nevertheless I go on with how much more 
trembling and how much less hope, not to speak of the 
sharp pangs of present grief, I cannot describe to you. 
You will understand by this why I hated to write letters, 
for whatever I start from I come back unawares to the 
same point. 

Though I am reluctant to form any plans, I don't think 
I will leave the Continent till after next winter. We are 
going to Switzerland now, and afterwards may perhaps 
stay in Paris ; but that I make no arrangement about as 

N 



194 



LETTERS. 



yet. This island is very lovely, very quiet, and has a 
softening influence which I am very glad to feel. It lies 
just at the entrance of the bay, looking towards Vesuvius, 
and the white line of towns which mark the coast, Naples 
being the centre; on the one side the noble hills above 
Sorrento, and the point which rounds off into the Bay of 
Salerno ; on the other the line of islands drawn out sea- 
ward and terminating in Ischia, which forms the other 
arm of the Bay of Naples. I don't suppose there is any- 
thing more lovely on earth ; and we have it in all lights 
always varying. When we came the mountains were 
covered with snow ; now they have dressed themselves in 
inexpressible colours, with the soft foreground of olives 
and young vines that belong to Capri itself, and a sea 
which is always blue, of a blueness which does not seem 
to be adequately described by the mere name of the 
colour. I doubt if you would care for Capri, however, 
for there is not a carriage of any description on the island, 
and you must either walk or ride. We go everywhere on 
ponies, and have got to feel at home in the place. 

To Mr Blackwood. 108 Champs Elys*es. 

I have meant to write ever since I got your last letter 
to say that I could not send you any miscellaneous paper 
this month — at least, in case you expected to hear from 
me — as I am busy with a book which has been for a long 
time, so long that I am ashamed of my delay, promised to 
my kind and excellent friend Mr Blackett. 1 

Thank you for sending me the ' Times ' with the review. 
It is very gracious and good, and its praise of my fresh- 
ness after twenty years' work went to my heart, though 
the date is slightly extended. I don't know whether I 
am alone in thinking so, or if the opinion is general, but 
it seems to me that the writing of the 'Times' just now 
is wonderfully bad. Not having seen it for a long time, 
it came upon me with something of the force of a sur- 
prise. There was in the same paper which reviewed the 

1 'Agnes.' 



1864.] 



A 'TIMES' CRITIQUE. 



195 



" Perpetual " another critique of Lady Strangford's book, 
which, I think, was as vulgar and stupid a piece of writ- 
ing as I remember to have seen. 

Champs ElysAes, December '64. 
I cannot say much of myself, except that I keep on 
living and working without having much interest in 
either ; but my little boys are well, which is the summit 
of all blessing. I don't know what a poor soul such as I 
am can say to you, to whom I am bound by so many 
years of kindness and good offices, at this season of good 
wishes, except that I wish you everything that is prosper- 
ous and happy, and that God may bless your house and 
keep your children safe. 



196 LETTERS. [1865. 



1865. 

To Mrs Tulloch. Champs Elys£rs, Jan. 22. 

My dearest Padrona, — Many happy years to you, 
my dear and sweet sister. Your birthday last year was 
about the last day of my happiness. I had little thought 
of ever looking back upon it as the end of the brightest 
period of my life, but it must be that God knows best. 
He has given me a painful and troubled passage through 
life, but to you the years are still pleasant and full of 
hope, and you know I wish you all that is best and most 
blessed in the world. I am not capable of much just at 
this time, as you will understand; but perhaps I may 
have more courage after this week is over. I think of 
going away to the country for a day or two, to fight it 
out by myself. Think of me a little when you say your 
prayers. It is hard to go out in the streets, to look out 
of the window, and see the other women with their 
daughters. God knows it is an unworthy feeling, but it 
makes me shrink from going out or facing the world. . . . 

As for the little boys, they have got on astonishingly. 
I cannot quite support Cecco's own opinion of his pro- 
ficiency, but he really commences to read French, and 
when he picks up an English book spells out the words 
after the pronunciation, which Mademoiselle has taught 
him in the funniest way. ... I have grown an old 
woman all at once, reluctant to move and impatient of 
having my routine disturbed, and the arrival of a visitor 
intent upon amusement is a kind of horror. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

I send you with this the second number of 'Miss 
Marjoribanks,' which I hope you will like. I am not 
quite sure myself that there is enough progress made, 



1865.] NOT IN THE LEAST A JACOBITE. 197 

and I am afraid I am getting into a habit of over- 
minuteness. Thank you for your letter and the cheque. 
I am quite content to leave myself in your hands about 
money ; indeed I have myself very little idea as yet how 
long this story may be: I meant it to be only four or 
five numbers, but I have already put in too many details 
to make that possible, and it seems to suit my demon 
best to let it have its own way. Only on the money 
question don't look severe if I should be driven to 
making claims upon you after a while. I don't want 
anything just now, but there is no telling what one 
may come to. My wonder is that all the Parisians are 
not hopelessly bankrupt: as far as I am myself con- 
cerned I live like an oyster in its shell, but the very 
air is dear, and to breathe is expensive. It has not 
been so cold as I expected, and the most of the winter 
seems over now. Happily the air here seems to agree 
very well with my boys, who can bear the cold much 
better than the heat, and the little one, Cecco, begins 
now and then to get a little hazy in his English, and 
finds French come handier. I was at St Germains 
for a few days in the end of last month, and was so 
impressed by it that perhaps I may send you a little 
paper about it one day or another. I am not in the 
least disposed to be a Jacobite, and Dundee and Cul- 
loden and Professor Aytoun sort of thing have very 
little effect upon me. But there was something wonder- 
fully touching in that long silent terrace and the thought 
of all the weary days and miserable hopes and disap- 
pointments that must have passed without any record — 
that and the other terrace at Frascati where poor Prince 
Charlie lies. I was sad enough myself at both places, 
and no one, being Scotch, could be unmoved by their 
associations. I got some time ago a most gracious 
letter from M. de Montalembert, whom I took courage 
to remind that I had brought a letter to him last year. 
He writes from La Roche en Bressy with that graceful 
French politeness which is quite excessive and uncalled 



198 



LETTERS. 



for, and at the same time quite delightful. He is to 
be in Paris after March, and is coming to see me. 

March 8. 

Don't frighten me, please, about ' Miss Marjoribanks.' 
I will do the very best I can to content you, but you 
make me nervous when you talk about the first rank 
of novelists, &c. : nobody in the world cares whether 
I am in the first or sixth. I mean I have no one left 
who cares, and the world can do absolutely nothing 
for me except giving me a little more money, which, 
Heaven knows, I spend easily enough as it is. But all 
the same, I will do my best, only please recognise the 
difference a little between a man who can take the good 
of his reputation, if he has any, and a poor soul who 
is concerned about nothing except the most domestic 
and limited concerns. 

The difference in my books is natural enough when 
you reflect that the first one was written when I was 
twenty, and the others were the work of a troubled 
life not much at leisure. It is only to be expected that 
one should do a little better when one has come to one's 
strength. I remember that once upon a time I refused 
to be convinced that ' The Caxtons ' was by Bulwer 
Lytton. As for your courteous critic's remarks (but it 
is incredible that a 'Saturday Reviewer* should write 
such a pretty hand), I am quite conscious of the "to 
be sures" and the " naturally s," but then a faultless 
style is like a faultless person, highly exasperating ; and 
if one didn't leave these little things to be taken hold 
of, perhaps one might fare worse. 

April 12. 

I am quite delighted with Montalembert. There is 
a kind of cream of graciousness and cordiality about 
him which smooths one down all over. I dined there, 
much, I confess, to my panic, for I don't feel suffici- 
ently sure of my French to be quite comfortable in 
society: however, they were all very kind. Montalem- 



1865.] AN AFFECTING ADVERTISEMENT. 1 99 



bert gave me the first half-dozen sheets of his third 
volume, which is now going through the press, to let 
me see, as he said, what it was like. What do you 
think about it? He told me that he didn't think you 
would care about having it, and I did all I could to 
represent to him that everybody read French nowadays, 
and especially everything in French that bore his name ; 
but he has evidently a hankering after a translation. I 
wish you would give me your mind on the subject. Of 
course it will be rather a loss of time to me, but still 
I would do it if it is to be done. A propos of French 
literature, there is an advertisement of Lamartine in the 
papers which goes to one's heart, offering, not even by 
a publisher but in his own name, a rabais of so many 
francs on the price of his entire works to anybody who 
will buy them. Will you let me do a paper on him 
and his books that I may feel myself justified in buying 
them? It is only two hundred francs for which he 
humbles himself in this distressing way — shouldn't you 
like a set for yourself? One feels so ashamed and sad 
that at his age he should have to do such a thing. To 
be sure, I suppose he has been a prodigal ; but then we 
are all prodigals more or less — at least I can speak for 
myself. 

To Mrs Tulloch. Avranches, May 28. 

My dearest Padrona, — I was very glad to get your 
letter and that of Fanny. They were a great pleasure to 
me in this cold, raw country, which is not particularly 
pretty nor inviting. The situation of the town is very 
fine, on a hill ; but what is the good of getting up on a 
hill only to look at a dead level of green fields and weird, 
impoverished trees? To be sure there is far in the 
distance a margin of sea with Mont St Michel, a greyish 
rock with a castle and very fine chapel on it stuck in the 
middle of a vast extent of sand, and looking at a distance 
not at all unlike a great pie (don't be shocked by the 
comparison) set out on a brown uncovered table. It is 



200 



LETTERS. 



[1865. 



very curious and interesting all the same, but I believe 
Tiddy means to make it the subject of a letter which 
Mademoiselle is incubating, and I have other things to 
do than to be topographical. We can get nothing in 
the shape of a house, and are staying at the hotel, which 
is of very equivocal cleanliness and much more distinctly 
nasty than cheap. In the course of next week we will 
go on to St Malo again for a few days, where we will be 
for half our time surrounded by sea ; and then to Dinan 
in Brittany, where please address to me. . . . 

I am thinking of staying here longer than I first in- 
tended, to wait for a great popular ftte, or feet, as Jane 
calls it, in Brittany, which may do service in the book 
Mr Blackett has engaged me, without any great will of 
my own, to write. ... I got an anxious letter from 
my brother Frank the other day, in consequence of his 
having heard in a roundabout way that I was in very 
poor health; and though it had never occurred to me 
before that I was not well enough, it is ridiculous what 
an effect even such a little bit of idle talk has on the 
subject of it, and how it makes one begin to think 
whether perhaps there may be some reason for one's 
languors and weariness. If these good people had as 
much to do as you and I have, Padrona mia, they would 
not have leisure to make so many commentaries upon 
others. 

You ask when shall we meet ? In my own house, I 
hope, if I get a house at Harrow or elsewhere. It is 
not dislike of St Andrews that would keep me from going 
to it — I need not explain what the other reasons are. 
You know I love you and all yours, and therefore you 
will think no harm of it, and indeed will anticipate what 
I say, that there are comparisons that I cannot bear. 
I have to put force upon myself when I go into the 
streets, and especially to church, and wonder and ask 
myself if it was that God found me unworthy of bringing 
up a woman. It was her birthday the day after we came 
here— twelve she would have been, and how different my 



ST MALO. 



20 1 



life ! You must come and see me, Padrona tnia, and let 
it be understood that you have a house in England 
always happy to receive you whenever you can come. 
Tell S. that Mr Ruffini on his last visit presented me 
with Leopardi, to my great content — that I might have 
a pleasant association with him, said the courtly Dr 
Antonio. You will be quite charmed with him. 

To Mr Blackwood. jtmt 11. 

I want to consult you about a proposal the ' Good 
Words' people have made me. They ask me to give 
them a story, beginning in November, for which they 
offer me £1000, leaving the copyright, after it has gone 
through their periodical, entirely in my hands. Of course 
it is a little tempting, but I will make no answer, either 
one way or another, until I hear from you. I don't in 
the least know what your feeling may be about it. My 
own feeling is that in any and every case the best I can 
do and the first is at your service, and if you have any 
dislike to seeing the name of your contributor in Dr 
Macleod's somewhat ragged regiment, I will not think 
of it further. ... I have been captivated on my way 
to Dinan by the delicious blue-green water and bristling 
rocks of St Malo, and have got a little nest on the beach 
opposite the town, where I mean to stay till the end of 
the month, when there is a great Breton fite not far off 
which I want to see. The water comes in upon the 
rocks immediately under the windows, and I crossed to 
St Malo to-day to church through the waves under 
heavy sail in a little boat, which you will allow was a 
piquant way of performing one's Sunday duties. I am 
afraid Tiddy at least was more captivated by the cross- 
ing than by the sermon. 

To Mrs Tulloch. Dinard, June 14. 

In place of going to Dinan, which is English, we have 
settled here on the bay of St Malo in a pleasant village 
which struck my fancy. The sea is lovely, and broken by 



202 



LETTERS. 



[1865. 



no end of bristling rocks and fortifications, with clouds of 
white-sailed boats floating about perpetually. You know I 
have a weakness for seeing my fellow-creatures, or at least 
the signs of them. I have got a tiny little house perched 
on the very edge of the rocks, so near that when the tide is 
full one can imagine oneself in a boat, for the rocks are 
steep and go sheer down into the water. It is very tranquil 
and sweet, and I think will do us all good, though Cecco 
has been for the moment a little upset by the change — not, 
however, in his old feverish way. I have got all your 
letters sent on from Dinan ; they do me no end of good. 
I began to get persuaded that I had no such thing as a 
friend in the world, that nobody cared for anybody, and 
that to expect sympathy or friendship was folly. Your 
letter, which is like yourself, heals me again. I think you 
must have been intended by Providence to be my better 
half and not the Principal's, which is a sentiment he may 
laugh at with safety under the circumstances. Please 
tell him with my love that I am taking Strahan's pro- 
posal into serious consideration. It was very kind of 
him to be the medium of conveying it, and it is an ex- 
tremely good proposal, and one I would jump at but 
for the idea that it might perhaps hurt me with the 
Blackwoods, who are, you know, my great dependence. 
. . . You speak of my being alone here, but I am no 
more alone here, you know, than it is my lot to be any- 
where, and I am not sure that one does not feel one's 
loneliness more when settled down at home than when 
wandering as I am doing. Here I can cheat myself into 
the idea that there are some people who will be glad to 
see me when I go back ; but then when one has gone 
back, and when the old life, as it was and yet so different, 
is resumed once for all, it is then that the hardest part 
of it comes. That is no reason why one should not go 
back and settle to one's duties, which I mean to do if all 
is well in a month or two, and accept as best I may my 
position as shadow in the landscape. The Blacketts are 
looking for a house for me, but as I should not like to 



I865-] 



THE CARLINGFORD SERIES. 



203 



take one definitely without seeing it, I think most likely 
in September I will return to London. 

To Mr Blackwood. yum 23. 

I send you with this a paper upon the Italian Leopardi, 
which I hope very much you may like. I am so desti- 
tute of anybody to speak to here, on literary subjects, 
that I cannot feel sure whether my author will impress 
you as he does me, or whether I have done him anything 
like justice. The paper is very long, I am afraid. 

It is hard that a poor woman should have to decide as 
well as to work for herself; it is the more difficult busi- 
ness of the two. How can I possibly tell whether 
' Miss Marjoribanks * will be a great success or not? I 
am working at her with all my might and power ; but you 
know yourself that if I happen to have a favourite bit for 
which I have a kind of natural weakness, it is always 
precisely on that bit that you snub me, so that I am the 
worst judge in the world as far as that goes. At the 
same time, I never would for an instant dream of giving 
a story by the author of the Carlingford Series to any 
periodical whatever on any terms, unless indeed you 
were first to throw me overboard. I have decided to tell 
the 'Good Words' people that they may have a novel 
by Mrs Oliphant or the author of 1 Margaret Maitland * 
if they wish it. The other I should never have thought 
of under any circumstances. 

I am sure your week at Ascot must have been very 
pleasant. I told a coachman I had in Normandy of the 
victory of the French horse at the Derby, and the grin of 
intense satisfaction that came over his face was some- 
thing beautiful to behold. 

To Mrs Tulloch. St Adresse, Havre, September 1. 

I suppose you are all still enjoying your woodland 
walks and mountain rides, while I am lingering out here 
the end of my wanderings. I should be half disposed to 
envy you being where you are if I had not occasion to 



204 



LETTERS. 



[1865. 



envy you so many other things that it is not worth while 
beginning with that. There is nothing attractive here to 
speak of except the sea, which is in a rage half its time, 
and knocks one down with mighty tawny waves, stronger 
and more violent than I ever saw anywhere. Tiddy has 
learned to swim, and performs very triumphantly when it 
is calm — which is not often ; and Cecco is full of plans to 
attain the same proficiency, but I don't expect he will 
succeed this year. I have promised him that he is to 
write his name in this letter to let you see how far he has 
got. It is an accomplishment he is very proud of. They 
are both very well, thank God, though Cecco has amused 
himself by having the chicken-pox. We have got a very 
pretty house, which belongs to Queen Christina of Spain, 
who lives here in summer. There is a pretty little garden 
and a nice view of the sea, and the internal arrangements 
are so satisfactory that I should be very glad to take it 
up and transplant it bodily to Harrow or Eton. I am 
beginning now to turn my thoughts to the latter place. 
Houses are not to be had at Harrow, and if I could satisfy 
myself that Eton was equally good for the boys, it would 
be much more interesting to me than the other. I begin 
to weary much to be settled, even though being settled 
will make very little difference one way or the other: 
indeed I think the sense of being abroad and away is 
rather a kind of ease, and permits one to cherish the 
delusion that there is something better at home — if one 
was but at home, — whereas there is nothing better any- 
where, and the only thing one has before one is to learn 
to be content. 

To Mr Blackwood. September 20. 

I send you with this the next number of ' Miss Marjori- 
banks.' ... As for what you say of hardness of tone, I 
am afraid it was scarcely to be avoided. I hate myself the 
cold-blooded school of novel-writing, in which one works 
out a character without the slightest regard to whether it 
is good or bad, or whether it touches or revolts one's sym- 



A RAMBLE BY THE SEINE. 



205 



pathies. But at the same time I have a weakness for 
Lucilla, and to bring a sudden change upon her character 
and break her down into tenderness would be like one of 
Dickens's maudlin repentances, when he makes Mr Dom- 
bey trinquer with Captain Cuttle. Miss M. must be one 
and indivisible, and I feel pretty sure that my plan is 
right. It is the middle of a story that is always the trying 
bit — the two ends can generally take care of themselves. 

To Mrs Tulloch. 

Carissima Padrona mia, — I was very glad to get your 
letter. I got it just after returning from a ramble on the 
banks of the Seine, with which I have been diversifying a 
little my quiet life. The country is nothing particular, but 
the lovely Gothic churches everywhere are quite wonder- 
ful. In a little bit of an insignificant town or village you 
come suddenly, without any warning, upon a grey, glori- 
ous, sometimes mouldered, old church of (what Mr Ruskin 
would call debased) Flamboyant Gothic, all clad in solemn 
stony lace and embroidery, which nobody ever said a word 
about or ever heard of, unknown to Murray and unfre- 
quented by tourists. We were three days gone and saw 
no end of such, and the lovely ruins of the Abbey of 
Jumieges. Do you remember when you were at Ealing 
that time when the Principal was so ill, I took a great 
fancy for a semi-pedestrian tour on the banks of the Seine 
if you would or could have gone ? Ah me ! If I had but 
contented myself with that and not gone to seek sorrow 
farther off. This is the last week we shall be here. I 
think of leaving on Friday, as Jane and the boxes are 
going direct from Havre, and I have still Rouen to take 
a glimpse of and to get to Boulogne, where there is a 
shorter passage across the Channel. If all is well we 
shall probably be in London on Monday the 25th. 

To Mr Blackwood. 15 Bayswater Terrace, Sept. 29. 

I write simply to tell you that I have got here safe and 
sound, and have established myself for a few weeks en 



206 



LETTERS. 



attendant a more definite settlement. We had on the 
whole an agreeable journey across country and finally by 
Boulogne here. London looks wonderfully well even after 
Paris, and I think can bear the comparison, and I find my 
simple-minded Swiss governess, who evidently laboured 
under the idea that les Anglais went abroad because they 
had no inducement to stay at home, quite overwhelmed 
with great astonishment to find that the island is wonder- 
fully habitable on the whole. 

I have been in communication with Mr Collins, to whom 
I narrated in my innocence that Tiddy had had six 
months of Latin, and who takes me up in a note I received 
on coming here, chuckling much over my womanish idea 
that six months' Latin was a sufficient preparation for 
Eton. I had no such idea, of course, but I think it is best 
to tell you the joke myself, as naturally you will hear it 
some time and have a laugh at my simplicity. I have 
made no decision as yet as to my final abode, as Mr 
Collins says decidedly Eton instead of Harrow, and a 
friend of mine here in whose judgment I have much con- 
fidence says with equal decision Harrow instead of Eton. 
I find myself a little in the position of the old man with 
the ass, being, as you and all my friends know, one of the 
most pliant and advisable of women. ... It is easy to 
laugh, but it is horribly hard work coming back here, 
and I am very little disposed in reality to be amused or 
amusing. Let me hear from you, please. 

The question which Mrs Oliphant had so anxiously 
debated as to the respective advantages of Harrow and 
Eton was finally settled in favour of the latter; and a 
very pretty cheerful little house, No. 6 Clarence Crescent, 
Windsor, was taken. Six years — on the whole, very 
happy ones — were spent here, and the following twenty, 
much checkered, in a larger house close by. This second 
house she bought, but during the last year of her life it 
was let. 



1866.] AN EVENING WITH CARLYLE. 



207 



1866. 

To Mrs Tulloch. 15 Bayswatbr Terrace, W. 

My dearest Padrona, — I have had a copy of 1 Agnes ' 
addressed to you for a week, but have not sent it away. 
I hope you will like it, though I feel that it is dull and 
long-winded ; but then when one is so happy as to have 
a padrona, one knows that one has an indulgent critic. I 
have been in a very bad way, padrona mia, since ever I 
came here. I suppose this translating work, though it is 
very hard work, is not engrossing enough ; and while I am 
writing about S. Columba mechanically, I am going over 
and over all the details of those four days that made 
such a terrible change in my life. I begin to understand 
better the Principal's illness, for now and then my mind 
fixes on one point till I get almost to feel as if it was I 
who had sacrificed my child. First one thing and then 
another, and my thoughts settle on that and go round 
and round it till I feel as if my head was going ; and then 
Ellen Blackett comes to see me with her children, and I 
ask myself why God makes such a wonderful difference 
between one and another, and the loss and void seem to 
grow greater and greater, and life more hard. I feel 
thankful now that I did not come to England sooner. 
It is bad enough now. Life to me seems to be so very 
little worth the pains that I have to take to keep it going. 
I can say this to you, dear, to relieve my heart, but of 
course at the same time I am going on and making my 
arrangements all the same as if I loved it, as one must do. 

I have taken a very pretty little house at Windsor : it 
is about a mile from Eton, which is a drawback, as the 
boys have to be there so early. 

I spent an evening last week all alone with Thomas 
Carlyle and his wife. She has had a dreadful illness and 
looks like a weird shadow, not quite canny, but nothing 



208 



LETTERS. 



[1866. 



could be kinder or nicer than both of them. She has to 
drive three hours every day, and has got a little brougham 
in which she performs that penance, making the best of 
it by driving her friends about. As for True Thomas 
himself, he expounded the Schleswig-Holstein business to 
me from a few hundred years before the beginning of it, 
to his wife's intense horror. But notwithstanding this 
dull choice of a subject his talk is delightful. 

To Miss Blackwood. 

I have had a good deal of trouble to find a house, but 
have finally taken one at Windsor from which Tiddy, and 
Cecco when he is old enough, can go to Eton. It was 
Harrow I was thinking of when I spoke to you of my 
plans, but then the place though pretty was very monot- 
onous, and Windsor is so pretty and cheerful that I 
have let selfish motives prevail with me a little — especially 
as my boys have brains enough to get on, I think, even 
amid the hurly-burly of such a great school. The children 
are very well, I am glad to say, and Tiddy is full of ex- 
citement about the long trousers and tall hats of Eton, 
the most frightful boy's dress that ever was invented. 
He will have to be at school at half-past seven in the 
morning, poor little soul! 

To Mrs Tulloch. Windsor, Sunday Evening. 

My dearest Padrona, — I was very glad to get your 
little note, which must have been crossed by my still less 
one, and Cecco's important communication. Poor little 
man, he was so pleased to write. I wonder if you have 
the wind howling at your ears as I have? One thing, 
however, I am sure of, that you are not sitting by your- 
self listening to it as I am, which makes it doubly 
eerie. 

I have got acquainted with one parsonic family — a 
family of four, all parsons, two brothers and two sisters, 
very nice and most wonderful to behold, up to their necks 
in school feasts and soup-kitchens and flannel petticoats, 



1866.] 



CARLYLE'S DIGESTION. 



209 



and, so far as I can see, with no other aspirations in par- 
ticular — a sight to make a Scotch revolutionary admire 
and wonder; but they, except a few ladies who have 
called upon me (one of whom asked me if I was fond of 
reading!), are all the people I know here, and I have 
made up my mind to keep myself to myself and retire 
altogether into private life. 

Tell the Principal if anything interesting in the way of 
the Church controversy comes in his way to send it to me : 
I want to try to do a paper on the subject. Mr Story has 
just sent me sundry sermons, &c. Let me know about 
your movements, carissima tnia, and don't forget I am 
looking (and wearying) for you as soon as you can come. 

To Rev. Dr Story. Windsor. 

... I have had a little visit from Mrs Carlyle, who is 
looking very feeble and picturesque, and as amusing as 
ever, and naturally has been taking away everybody's 
character, or perhaps I ought to say throwing light upon 
the domestic relations of the distinguished people of the 
period. I was remarking upon the eccentricity of the 
said relations, and could not but say that Mr Carlyle 
seemed the only virtuous philosopher we had. Upon 
which his wife answered, "My dear, if Mr Carlyle's 
digestion had been stronger, there is no saying what he 
might have been ! " 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 17M May. 

... I was much pleased to see that you were to 
publish ' Felix Holt.' One goes away and tries " to 
better oneself," and then one returns to one's first love, 
which is creditable to one's good sense as well as to 
the first love in question. 

As for * Miss Marjoribanks,' I am a little disgusted 
with her, and with novels in general — with the latter so 
greatly that I have been contemplating an indignant 
address to all who are worth their salt in the trade, 
praying them to give it up and take to some more honest 

O 



2IO 



LETTERS. 



[1866. 



mode of livelihood. Let us take people's lives, or any- 
thing that is worth the trouble. I have a great mind 
to come down upon the miserable mass of novels that 
make one ashamed of one's trade. 

Victor Hugo will take a little time. His last book is 
very leisurely, and I daresay tedious in one point of view, 
but wonderfully fine in most others, and perfectly free of 
moral blemish, which is no small matter. The passage 
that struck you is grand in its way. 

Windsor. 

Most unreasonable and exacting of editors, what would 
you have ? Was it not only the other day that you were 
abusing me for Lucilla's want of heart, and now, when 
the poor soul finds herself guilty of caring for somebody, 
you think she has too much ! It is the sad fate of gifted 
women in general never to be appreciated. For my own 
part, I think my poor dear heroine always had a very 
good heart, and though it was silly of her to like Tom, 
still we never set up for inhuman consistency, neither 
Lucilla nor I. The last part shall come on Monday, and 
I hope Tom will give you satisfaction, and you will find 
that Miss M. has not done so badly for herself after all. 

I have got two copies of 1 Felix Holt 9 — the last sent 
me by Mr Langford. I suppose as an equivalent for the 
six copies of * Miss Marjoribanks,' which I ought to have ; 
and I fear I have got them on false pretences, for I don't 
think I could say anything satisfactory about it. It 
leaves an impression on my mind as of " Hamlet " played 
by six sets of gravediggers. Of course it will be a suc- 
cessful book, but I think chiefly because ' Adam Bede 9 
and * Silas Marner ' went before it. Now that I have 
read it, I have given up the idea of reviewing it. 

Windsor, 30M June. 
I hope you don't think me so utterly stupid as to have 
any doubt about the perfection of George Eliot's writing : 
I don't suppose she could express herself otherwise than 
exquisitely if she were to try, and there are a thousand 



1866.] 



J. S. MILL. 



211 



tones of expression which nobody else could have hit 
upon, and which give one a positive thrill of pleasure 
to read them. All that is pretty well implied in her 
name, but I am mightily disappointed in the book all 
the same. One feels as if a great contempt had seized 
her for the public and her critics (quite legitimate in 
some respects, I think), and she had concluded that it 
was not worth her while to put forth her strength, — that 
this would please them just as well as if it was twenty 
times better. And I think the praise of the * Saturday 
Review ' and the * Times ' — evidently both much dis- 
satisfied with the book, and neither daring to say so, 
except in the most timid way — proves this conclusively. 
Perhaps it is the height of literary triumph to strike 
criticism with awe — I think it is, and a very comical 
effect. 

This year Mrs Oliphant went back to Roseneath, where 
she had spent so many happy years with her children. 
In the church there she put a memorial window, a tribute 
to her little daughter. 

The Manse, Roseneath, August 16. 
I send you a little paper I have just finished about Stuart 
Mill and his mad notion of the franchise for women. I 
daresay there are repetitions in it, but that (if you like it) 
I could remedy in proof ; and probably you will think it 
too respectful to Mr Mill, but I can't for my part find 
any satisfaction in simply jeering at a man who may do 
a foolish thing in his life but yet is a great philosopher. 
I shall be glad if you like it. 



212 



LETTERS. 



[1867. 



1867. 

To Miss Blackwood. 4M Feb. 

My dear Isabella, — I think you took me up as 
meaning more than I did mean in what I said in my last 
letter. I never dreamt for a moment that you did not 
sympathise with me in my grief, but there are moods 
which are as much a part of grief as sorrow itself, and in 
which nobody can or ought to be expected to sympa- 
thise, which made me say that I was pitched upon a 
different key. The fact is, that people are sometimes in 
discord with everything — with common life and the 
will of God as well as with the more natural thoughts 
and feelings of their friends. I was still in that condition 
when I was in Paris, Heaven knows, often enough, and 
— especially in the anniversary which has just passed — 
I am so still. It would have been unnatural and im- 
possible, and even wrong, if anybody could have gone 
with me into that valley of the shadow of death. And 
there are few worse aggravations of grief than just this 
sense that one is out of tune and harmony with every- 
thing and everybody. Your own experience must show 
you what I mean. There was not a shadow of reproach 
in it — far from that — but only a sad enough recollection 
of the state of my own mind at the time. 

Sad as this letter is, and most genuine in its sadness, 
the time when it was written is that of the beginning of 
several very happy years. Eton, where Cyril was now 
settled, was becoming an immense source of interest. 
Numbers of small boys came about the house, and there 
was always something going on for them or their elders. 

Windsor, 25M Feb. 
. . . You talk of theatricals, and, oddly enough, I am 



i86 7 .] 



MARIOLATRY. 



213 



up to the eyes in preparation for a very mild kind of 
theatricals now — charades. I had meant to have a party 
of little Etonians before I left home, and to amuse them 
with a little performance of this kind ; but I had for- 
gotten that Lent was coming on, and as my right-hand 
man is a clergyman, I have been obliged to hurry matters 
on, and it is to come off next Saturday. I have written a 
small skeleton drama for one of the charades, with one 
great scene, a trial, which promises to be rather success- 
ful. You shall have the reversion of it if you like. The 
word is schoolfellow, and there is a quarrel between two 
heroes about a pretty girl, and a row, which ends in one 
of them being brought to trial. I was in hopes I might 
have been able to have had this at the time when Emma 
came next month, but that is now impossible. . . . 

I shall be rather dissipated this week, as I am going up 
to the House of Commons on Thursday evening in hopes 
of hearing a debate on the Reform business, unless in- 
deed your friend Disraeli makes too great a mess of it to- 
morrow for further proceedings. This sober kind of 
dissipation is the only one I have been guilty of since I 
came back to Windsor, where we have been living like 
hermits. As for my Paris excursion, it will be all work 
and very little play, which, after all, is not so delightful 
as you seem to think. One gets tired sometimes, and 
feels one's courage flag and one's spirits give way. 

This letter refers to an article in * Blackwood ' en- 
titled "Elizabeth and Mary." 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 15M March. 

I think it best since receiving your letter to send you 
my MS. No. 1 at once, without waiting for the other. I 
hope you will like it — it has given me no end of trouble : 
in short, I have felt that I would gladly strangle both the 
ladies in question with my own hands, simply to get rid 
of them. I wonder how history-writers survive it. I 
trust the admiration which Mary has extorted from me 



214 



LETTERS. 



[1867. 



will reconcile me sufficiently with ' Maga's ' chivalrous 
creed in respect to her. All the same, I think you are 
all doing that wonderful woman the greatest injury by 
setting her up as innocent. Mary innocent ! You might 
as well say at once that she was a fool, which comes to 
much about the same thing. It is ticklish work saying so 
in public, yet there does seem to be a kind of glorious 
human creature that is incomplete without crime — witness 
your Davids and Marys. The way in which she shakes it 
all off her — love, murder, Bothwell, and all, — takes as it 
were a bath of tranquillity at Lochleven and comes out 
fresh, innocent, and indomitable, — is, I think, one of the 
most marvellous things in history. . . . 

We have dreadful weather — snow for three days, and 
everything looking miserable. Have you a Correspondent 
in Paris for the Exhibition, or do you mean to give me 
that post? I shall be going there in the end of this 
month — a doleful prospect enough. 

P.S. — I have written all this without saying what I 
meant to say first of all, that I am much gratified by Mr 
Burton's letter. I am very glad that he was pleased with 
the paper, and that I succeeded in catching his favourite 
meaning, for which, however, as directing me to it, 
thanks to you. 

To Miss Blackwood. March 18. 

My dear Isabella, — I have not been writing to a 
soul for some time past, for I have been ferociously busy, 
wearing my very heart out with history, which is worse 
than any amount of writing. What is the good of facts ? 
Don't you hate them ? — impertinent intruders that are 
always coming in one's way. I have only time for a 
word, for I haven't finished ' Brownlows ' yet, and your 
brother would tear his hair if he saw me spending the 
precious moments on letters. . . . 

I am very glad you liked my verses : I had, however, 
the greatest difficulty in getting your brother to publish 



i86 7 .] 



THE PARIS EXHIBITION. 



215 



them. He declared they were unintelligible, and yet you 
don't seem to have had any difficulty in entering into the 
spirit of them. I was very pleased with your letter about 
them, though I was too busy to answer it. . . . 

Tids is going on very nicely. I go down to Eton 
chapel every Sunday afternoon and bring my small hero 
up with me, finding, of course, the chief interest centre in 
him ; but it is a fine sight, about seven hundred of them 
altogether. 

I suppose I must start for Paris next week, always 
hoping the weather in the meantime will modify itself. 
The Exhibition apparently will not be ready for some 
time yet, which I shall be very glad of, as things will not 
be so horribly dear in that case. I mean, if I can, to get 
into a convent for a week or two as a boarder. 

To Mr Blackwood. Paris, yd May. 

My dear Mr Blackwood, — I can't do it. I have 
been labouring on it at every spare moment for some 
time back, and only getting deeper and deeper into the 
mud. I am very sorry if it will disappoint you, but the 
fact is, I detest Exhibitions. Even the pictures are not 
striking, and how, I appeal to your feelings, can one write 
about cotton or flannel, or machinery, or manures, as 
4 Galignani ' does to-day ? I don't have headaches in a 
general way, but I have had half a dozen literary ones 
over this wretched place. Mea culpa. I beg you ten 
thousand pardons. I will send you a paper about French 
sermons and religious literature under a very novel de- 
velopment, but spare me the Champs de Mars ! If you 
would make a vigorous crusade against the wretched 
rubbish of exhibitions, then I will with all my heart write 
you a paper descriptive of these miseries — shall I ? — in 
prose or verse, as you will. I feel equal to that. I con- 
fess I envy you men your power of swearing at such 
prodigious humbug. There is my MS. lying before me, 
ever so many sheets, as bad as its subject, mere loss of 
time and unutterable weariness, when I might have been 



2l6 



LETTERS. 



[1867. 



getting on with my legitimate work. It would be a kind 
of satisfaction to my mind in my present state of feeling 
to go down to the Champs de Mars and break a lot of 
windows, but I fear that is a gratification impossible to 
anything but a boy. 

Hotel Royal, Berlin, 13M May. 

... I am much afflicted in my mind about the ' Monks ' 
— both the proofs and the MS. — but what can a poor 
woman do ? I can work thirteen hours a-day at home, 
but I can't do that abroad upon the world in this way, 
cultivating the German clergy and other strange species. 
I am willing to go down on my knees to Mr Simpson if 
that will do him any good ; but I shall be home in the 
first week in June, and after that will work double speed. 

I am getting on with my notes, but I will be unable to 
make any use of them till I get home. The dreadful 
responsibility of paying bills and getting railway tickets 
in an unknown tongue comes in the way of other mental 
work. I begin to think, however, with modest satisfac- 
tion, that I must speak better German than the Germans 
themselves, for they understand me, but I don't under- 
stand them! 

Prague, 25M May. 

... I am here for three-quarters of a day, and am 
just going to look for Nina Balatka's bridge, &c. — a 
pilgrimage which Mr Trollope (I beg your pardon, I 
forgot he was anonymous) should take as a compliment 
from a veteran novel-reader like myself. . . . 

Did anybody ever go up the Elbe before me, I wonder? 
I don't remember any record of its beauties. It is a 
glorious river — worth twenty Rhines, so far as natural 
beauty is concerned. 

Windsor, Aug. 8. 
... I enclose Mr Martin's letter. One thing the 
Queen certainly has the power of doing, and that is, 
fascinating anybody — or is it only all the men? — who 



1867.] 



THEATRICALS. 



217 



approach her. The Principal swears by her, and Mr 
Martin is evidently sentimental on the subject. . . . 

I have been — to make a jump — thinking over my bio- 
graphical scheme, and I think George the Second's would 
be a good period — fresh ground; and there is Queen 
Caroline, Duke John of Argyle, Prince Charlie, and 
quantities of interesting people, — an age that has not 
been touched by any recent historian, except, by the 
way, Carlyle in his Frederick, but only very slightly 
there. I think I could throw myself into it, and make 
a collection of sketches worth paper and print. Tell me 
what you think. 

The admirable 4 Historical Sketches of the Reign of 
George II.,' after appearing in 'Maga,' went through 
three editions — 1869, 1870, an d I 875« 

To Mrs Tulloch. Nov. 26. 

Padrona Carissima, — I daresay you must be thinking 
everything that is dreadful of me, but I have been so 
harassed and bothered that I have never had a moment 
for anything. Our theatricals (an awful business to take 
in hand) went off very successfully at last, but took no 
end of trouble. . . . Cecco made his appearance as a 
little herald in a tabard with Bluebeard's arms, and was 
greatly appreciated by the audience, as was also Mr Tids, 
whose health was drunk afterwards. . . . 

I am just getting sucked into the vortex of hard work 
with my dreadful religious life book, and am up to the 
eyes in every kind of historical and religious French 
productions I can lay my hands on. When I shall get 
through them Heaven only knows. It will be much 
more serious work than I had any idea of, and it will not 
pay, which is an awful consideration, especially after all 
the expense it has already put me to. I expect to have a 
very busy winter, and it is a real hindrance to me now 
that people have come about me, even such people 
as Mrs Macdonald and little Nelly, not to speak of 



218 



LETTERS. 



[1867. 



Mrs S. My time is constantly liable to be broken in 
upon, and I get grumbly and cross and ill-natured. I 
wish you would come and be my wife, as is your duty — 
and behave yourself as such : the Principal might give 
me half a quarter of you, but men are such selfish 
wretches. . . • 

I have been hearing pretty regularly from Rome during 
these stirring times ; they are all well, though they were 
rather frightened at one time. William says in his last 
letter that Robert and he had visited the battlefield of 
Mentana, and he encloses a bit of a love-letter he picked 
up on it, signed "tua, per sempre, amanti, Colomba." 
Poor Colomba ! I wonder if her Luigi was killed or taken 
prisoner, or only ran away ! 



1868.] 



A SUBLIME EXAMPLE. 



219 



1868. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor. 

... It is very disheartening that the writers who 
talk about all the rubbish that is published should let 
the best efforts of one's life fall flat without a word. I 
don't understand it, unless it is that under the present 
system only those who have connections in the critical 
world get any notice. One must bear it, of course, along 
with one's other burdens. I hope at least that this silence 
will not occasion any loss to you. 

I have been stimulated by the sight of a printed letter 
addressed by Ruskin to his friends, to carry out an idea 
of reviewing his late brief productions. Shall I do it? 
The letter itself would throw you into fits of laughter. 
He is "about to enter on some work which cannot be 
well done except without interruption," he says, and 
therefore begs his friends " to think of me as if actually 
absent from England, and not to be displeased though I 
must decline all correspondence " ! Shouldn't you like to 
follow such a splendid example ? It is positively sublime. 

I am extremely glad you like the historical papers. 
With modesty so do I ! Poor Chesterfield ! — one's heart 
aches for the disappointed man. 

Windsor. 

I was very sorry not to be able to write to you before 
you left town, but I have been quite ill since I got your 
letter, and kept in a flutter with the Court ladies who 
are arranging my visit to the Queen. That great event 
is to take place this afternoon, the plenipotentiaries on 
both sides having settled all the preliminaries. I don't 
know whether I feel most like the Queen of Sheba or 
the Pig-faced lady! 

St Andrews, Sept. 18. 
... I have at the present moment two families to 
support, which is not easy to be done when one has 



220 



LETTERS. 



[1868. 



nothing but one's head and hands. The additional and 
unexpected burden has made me stagger a little, but I 
hope it will come round all right. . . . 

The pension of £100 granted to Mrs Oliphant at this 
time came to her as a most pleasant surprise. She 
speaks of it in the following letter 

To Mrs Tulloch. Windsor, zrd October. 

... I am so unused to pieces of luck that I find 
myself wondering on what principle this is — or is there 
no principle (except Him of St Andrews) but only royal 
grace and favour involved? I enclose the necessary 
certificate, which looks formal enough for anything. It 
is very nice to get a hundred totally unexpected pounds. 
I don't think it ever happened to me before. Curiosity, 
however, mingles with my rapture. Are pensions of this 
kind generally paid in the lump once a-year ? It is very 
good of the Queen — if she has anything to do with it, 
which you will say is a doubt of the profanest kind. 

To Principal Tulloch. Windsor. 

My dear Principal, — They tell me, or rather Mr 
Blackett tells me, that I am indebted to you for £100 
a-year. I was quite taken by surprise by the announce- 
ment, though Mr Blackett spoke to me some time since 
to know whether I would accept such a thing or not, but 
I thought it was a business to be done by him and not by 
you. A thousand thanks for your kindness and delicacy, 
and the way in which you have done this. The money is 
nothing to the kind care and thoughtfulness, which is 
worth it a hundred times over. Many thanks. I shall 
always consider it is a gift from you — that you have given 
me a house, or, as Mr Blackett puts it, three thousand 
pounds in the Funds, which is excessively pleasant ; but 
I am sure you who know me will believe me when I say 
that I like your kindness and brotherly thought for me 
much more than I care for the 100 pounds. 



1869.] 



RICHARDSON AND FIELDING. 



221 



1869. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, yd February. 

... I have been and still am extremely busy, so busy 
that anything which I possibly can put off I do. I am 
working at Richardson now, and will send you the paper 
by the end of the week. I suppose I ought to be ashamed 
to confess that, tedious as he often is, I feel less difficulty 
in getting through him than in reading Fielding, and that 
as a matter of taste I actually prefer Lovelace to Tom 
Jones ! I suppose that is one of the differences between 
men and women which even Ladies' Colleges will not set 
to rights. Pray don't tell of me ; if I betray my senti- 
ments in public they shall be laid upon the heavily bur- 
dened shoulders of what Clarissa would call " my sex," 
and your contributor shall sneer at them as in duty 
bound. 

I have been intending for some time to consult you 
about a long-projected book of mine, ' Religious Life on 
the Continent/ which Mr Blackett begged me to let him 
advertise a long time ago for the benefit of some list he 
wanted to make up, with the proviso that I should not be 
asked to produce the MS. until my own time. As, how- 
ever, he has on the one side become impatient, and I on 
the other am resolved that nothing shall make me rattle 
together an unsatisfactory book, we have mutually agreed 
to break our contract in respect to it. I have, however, 
collected such a heap of material and spent so much 
money on it that I rather grudge giving up the idea. My 
plan was to have devoted one volume to France, giving a 
narrative of the singular revival of religion there thirty 
years ago, with personal narratives of Lamennais, La- 
cordaire, and the other notable men concerned, perhaps 
including our friend Montalembert, and concluding with 
an account of France in its religious aspect at the present 



222 



LETTERS. 



time — an aspect which I rather imagine will be new to a 
great many English readers. The second volume was to 
be concerned with the " Religious Life of Germany," but 
there I confess my ideas had not shaped themselves to 
any distinct plan. Now, do you think you would feel 
inclined to go in for a work of this kind ? or that there is 
any chance of making it pay for all the labour that would 
be involved ? Detached chapters of it, perhaps the whole, 
might be interesting enough for the Magazine, but of 
course you are the judge as to whether they would be suit- 
able. Don't be afraid of disappointing me by a simple 
negative, for I have not wrought myself to the height of 
enthusiasm about it, and it would still require a great 
deal of work. I like the subject, however, and have 
already done and spent so much that it would be a 
kind of waste to do nothing more. I have a couple of 
shelves full of books on the subject just over my head, 
and painfully apparent as I write, and another heap at 
the other side from Rolandi, waiting the leisure I have 
never yet had to bestow upon them. If you thought 
the project feasible I should go to Germany for six 
months in order to go thoroughly into that half of my 
subject. 

I have always meant to mention to you what I sup- 
pose Mr Trollope must have done, since he wrote to me 
through your hands, that I am to follow him in his 
magazine, ' St Paul's/ as soon as his present story is 
completed. 

Windsor. 

I am very glad you liked the paper on Richardson : I 
hoped you would. You do not make any reply to my 
questions in a previous letter, especially about my Re- 
ligious Life book. I presume this means you do not 
care to hear anything more of it. But as I am anxious 
to make my arrangements well in advance, I should like 
if you would let me know distinctly. 1 

1 This book was never carried beyond the embryo stage. 



1869.] 'SKETCHES OF THE REIGN OF GEORGE II.' 223 



Windsor. 

I enclose proof of 'John,* of which Mr William has 
just sent me a reminder, and am working at Froude, 
with some difficulty I confess, having so lately said my 
say about Mary ; and the article will not be a long one, 
but I hope to be able to send it off to you on Saturday 
(to-morrow), and I trust you will find it do. This is 
a long month! We are all in a state of excitement 
about Tids, who has gone and won the Prince Consort's 
prize for French, 1 quite promiscuous, neither himself 
nor anybody else having the least idea that he could 
possibly succeed, as he is the very youngest of the 
competitors, and only went in at the last moment with 
ten days to do the preparation in, which all the others 
have been busy with for at least half a year. It is his 
first appearance as public prizeman, and naturally we 
are all somewhat elated. 

I don't find that I get on well with my essay on the 
period of George the Second. I fear I should only re- 
peat myself, and that my attempt to give a general view 
would but come into weak comparison with Macaulay's 
famous description of the state of affairs in the end of 
the previous century, which indeed in many respects 
might stand for any period. As I don't see my way 
to doing it well, perhaps I had better not attempt to 
do it at all. If you think there is not enough in the 
twelve biographies to make up the size of book you 
propose for the reprint, I will throw in another, which 
will be sufficiently easy to do. I am sorry to have been 
negligent in sending back the proof, but I wanted to 
keep the Sketches by me while attempting this sum- 
mary in which I have failed. Will you let me know 
whether you would like me to add a thirteenth (unlucky 
number), or whether I shall get those I have in hand 
ready at once for press? I might take Duke John of 

1 The Prince Consort's French prize was won by both the Oliphants. Cyril 
was just over twelve at this time. 



224 



LETTERS. 



[1869. 



Argyle, and with him a sketch of Scotland of the time 
of the Porteous Mob, &c, which I should rather like. 
Pray tell me your mind on the subject. As you have 
kindly paid me for this paper, I am anxious to do it 
one way or another, but I would not send you work 
which I feel to be unsatisfactory. I have been pottering 
over it for some time, and am immensely dissatisfied 
with it and myself. Do tell me also, please, if I am to 
ask leave to engrave Queen Caroline. I hope you mean 
to have some pictures. 

The following letter from Tennyson refers to a 
request made by Mrs Oliphant that he would permit 
the publication of some stanzas of "In Memoriam," 
very beautifully set as a part song by Mr Bridge, then 
organist of Holy Trinity, Windsor, and now Sir F. 
Bridge of Westminster. 

From Lord Tennyson to Mrs Oliphant. 

Blackdown, Haslkmere, October 18. 
Madam, — I forwarded your request to Mr Strachan, 
because to him properly belongs the right over my 
published poems. What he says of my objection to 
having any part of " In Memoriam " published to music 
is perfectly correct. Those portions which you have 
seen so published have been granted to the solicitations 
of friends not to be refused, as this is now granted to 
Mr Carlyle's, and would, I have no doubt, have been 
granted to your own, had I had the privilege of your 
friendship. Pardon my seeming discourtesy, and believe 
me, your faithful servant, A. Tennyson. 



187a] AN ACCOMPLISHED COURIER. 



225 



187O. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 2nd February. 

. . • You would not care (would you ?) to send me as 
your own commissioner to report upon the state of Italy ? 
I am doing a Life of S. Francis of Assisi for Macmillan's 
Sunday Library, and I wish some benevolent person 
would send me out to Umbria. I should not mind 
taking a situation as courier at £100 a -month to a 
party of inexperienced tourists. Recommend me, please ! 
My acquirements are mild French and a little Italian, 
and a capacity for getting up any given subject so as 
to be able to filter it into the millionaire mind, and I 
would not mind dedicating the book to my patron or 
patroness ! Do find me a place. 

Windsor. 

The * Edinburgh Review,' in the person of Mr Reeve, 
is coming to see me to-morrow. Do you think he will 
eat me ? I feel very nervous. If you should never hear 
anything more of me you will know how to account 
for it. 

Please tell Mrs Blackwood that I have just finished the 
most enchanting little pole-screen, made out of a series of 
heavenly little coloured French pictures supplied by our 
friend Mr Patch. He is willing to send whole portfolios 
of them to be chosen from, and I have no adjectives 
superlative enough to describe the dainty little Marquises 
and Cherubinos. Please to convey this message in its 
integrity, without any fear of being ruined by the conse- 
quences — they are so cheap ! . . . 

I hope your nephew is better. I am in the doctor's 
hands myself, and ordered not to work I ! I 

Windsor. 

The question I am going to ask you is not one I had 
any idea of asking you yesterday, nor will your answer in 



226 



LETTERS. 



[187a 



the negative at all disappoint me. Do you care for hav- 
ing a story from me, a full-sized story, during next year ? 
I have (ga va sans dire) something planned, though not 
written as yet, three -volume size. And yesterday an 
American publisher called upon me, offering me some 
money for the advance sheets of my next serial story. 
He offered me the appalling sum of two hundred pounds ! 
and my head is a little turned with the intense novelty of 
the notion; therefore I write to ask you whether you 
would be disposed to have my story, and aid me in spoil- 
ing the Egyptians. My Yankee friend wants something 
beginning in January. Tell me, please, whether you are 
disengaged, and if you have room for anything of mine ; 
but pray don't have any feeling on the subject if your 
answer is No, for I shall not be disappointed — except of 
the undercurrent of delight of getting some money out of 
those transatlantic robbers. My visitor was so flattering 
about my popularity in America that I felt mightily dis- 
posed to fling a sofa cushion at his head, or else to im- 
pound him, and hold him to ransom, which perhaps 
would have been the better way. 

Windsor. 

With this I send proofs of both ' John ' and the t'other 
papers, feeling rather spiteful at myself, and a little at you 
in respect to the former. I wanted to cut the half of it 
out, and I have not done it, lacking encouragement. And 
I am wounded to the depths of my soul by one word in 
your criticism — Cuddling ! Good heavens, that I should 
have lived to hear such a word spoken of my heroine! 
It is a sign that I should abandon novel-writing and take 
to plain sewing, for the rest of my life, I suppose. 

I am up to my eyes in the 1 Acta Sanctorum ' at pre- 
sent, and unless you would like a review of one or two 
volumes of that elegant and light work, I don't think I 
shall attempt anything further this month. Tiddy is 
going down to St Andrews with the bridegroom in about 
ten days. In respect to the war, the said bridegroom is 
like you golfers. I asked him just at the moment of 



LAURENCE OLIPHANT. 



227 



greatest excitement whether there was any news, and he 
answered me complacently, Yes, he had got a letter by the 
midday post ! Our interest here, however, has been much 
enhanced by the excitement of my friend Mrs Macdonald, 
who has gone to France to join her daughter. I had a 
great mind to have gone over to Paris with her, and sent 
you a paper to pay my expenses withal. 

Mrs Macdonald, who was a very near neighbour of Mrs 
Oliphant, was the mother of Madame Canrobert, and of 
course all the events of the Franco-German war became 
more vividly interesting as they affected these two ladies. 

Windsor, 18M August. 

I am very glad you liked the Piccadilly paper. I feel 
rather strongly on the subject myself, and consequently (I 
suppose) thought it rather bad. I have made most of 
the corrections you suggest. Mr Oliphant told me he 
had the intention of returning to his original work, and 
I rejoiced like you ; but what if he should fall into an 
ordinary man of the world again, and like to hear his 
book praised, and himself applauded like the rest of us ? 
In that case would you not rather have had him stay 
away ? It is so difficult to know what is the right way. 
It is all very well for Mr Stopford Brooke (his letter is 
very good and clear, and I have quoted from it), but I 
had rather, for my part, having a high esteem for Mr 
Oliphant and great admiration of his powers, that he 
went in for any amount of extravagance and enthusiasm 
than that he fell back into your banal world, and con- 
tented himself like other people. I do not agree with you 
in thinking that he has begun to find out the weakness of 
his system, and I trust he will not find it out. When he 
does it will kill him, either body or soul — or such at least 
is my conviction. 

This war is too frightful. I cannot say I sympathise 
really with either party, but I know much more of the 



228 



LETTERS. 



[1870. 



French than of the Germans, and, right or wrong, one's 
heart goes with the losing side. 
Thanks, very much, for your kind invitation. 

Windsor, 211/ October. 
You put me into rather a whimsical puzzle by your 
letter. You say you like my paper, and then object to 
almost everything in it. If you remember, my object in 
beginning these criticisms was to speak the truth and 
shame the newspapers — praising and blaming without 
fear or favour. Of course when my opinion is opposed to 
yours, it is but right and natural that mine should go to 
the wall ; but I cannot stultify myself and deny my judg- 
ment, you know, with my own hand. I can hold my 
tongue, but if I do speak it must be according to my own 
judgment. I think the Oliphant 1 book extremely vapid 
(by the way, they are not my family in the least ; I dare- 
say my forebears were quite as stupid and not half so well 
off, but at all events they were totally distinct), and I sym- 
pathise most warmly in a great deal that is said in the 
• Ginx's Baby * book, and do actually express my own 
sentiments in what I say about it. And I admire im- 
mensely the "Peasant Life." What is to be done? I 
will strike out as far as my own judgment will permit me, 
but I can't do any more. Of course the final excision 
of it, even of the entire paper, remains always in your 
hands. 

Windsor, %nd November. 
... I am glad Mr Oliphant is out of town, for I had 
been half disappointed not to hear anything of him. I 
have just had a letter this morning from a lady who is a 
medium, and who invites me to inspect a drawing made 
by her under spiritual guidance of my own " crown of glory 
in water-colours." What do you suppose it can be ? I 
have the Scriptural requisite for a crown of glory in the 
shape of grey hair, but you don't suppose she can have a 
hair-wash to recommend ? It is very funny. 

1 Not Laurence Oliphant. 



i87i.] 



'THE BATTLE OF DORKING.' 



229 



187I. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 18M March. 

Mr Blackett's sudden death without any arrangement 
for the care of his family has impressed me so much that 
I am very anxious to set my affairs in order, and I write 
to ask you whether you would kindly consent to be my 
executor and a kind of guardian to my boys in case of my 
death before they are grown up ? I have asked Principal 
Tulloch to accept the same charge. . . . Should my death 
take place while the boys are still under age I have no 
doubt my pension would be continued to them, so that I 
think there would be enough properly managed to bring 
them up, especially as they both show promise of being 
able to help themselves in the way of scholarships, &c. 

4M April 

. . • I will make any reasonable sacrifice to please 
you, but one of the passages you have marked I cannot 
see my way to leave out. It seems to me the very 
secret of all Cowper's weakness, and one which it is for 
the good of everybody, and especially of religious people, 
to have fully indicated ; and besides I take pains to say 
their Calvinism is not to blame, and that a Jesuit director 
would or might do the same as Newton did. So much of 
Cowper's life is involved in this, that to take it out would 
be to omit the chief explanation of many of its mysteries. 
I will try if I can soften it, but even that I doubt 

4/ h May. 

If your old contributors had to yield the pas to such 
writers only as the author of the ' Battle of Dorking ' we 
should have little to complain of. It is wonderfully fine 
and powerful. Is it Laurence Oliphant? I can't think 
of anybody else with such a power of realism and wonder- 



230 



LETTERS. 



[1871- 



ful command of the subject. It is vivid as Defoe. I had 
it read to me last night, and I have done nothing but 
dream of invasion all the night through. The effect is 
almost too vivid. I hope you will make a separate 
publication of it. It ought to have a very great effect, 
unless, indeed, the public which consumed by the hundred 
thousand all that flat rubbish about 'Dame Europa* 
should be unable to understand this infinitely higher 
effort. I hope I have guessed rightly, and that it is my 
interesting namesake who has written it. If it is so, I 
wish you would convey to him the expression of my 
unbounded admiration, not to say emotion, in reading 
it. But how do you come to suffer such reflections on 
your friends the Prussians? 

I had better put off my " New Books " paper until next 
month, as it is rather aggravating to fret and hurry to 
have a paper ready in time, and then find it cannot be 
used. Of course the Editor has to fiime and fret enough 
on his side too — but we are all mortal. Perhaps we may 
have an opportunity when you come to London of talking 
on the " Cowper " paper, as I feel strongly that he is the 
beginner of the modern school, and my course will be 
incomplete without him. 

Windsor, 18M November* 
... I am glad to hear you are going to Paris. I am 
sure a little rest and change will do you good. I shall 
stay a day or two there, I think, as I come back, — about 
the 20th of December, — and should like much to see Mr 
Oliphant. I thought of trying to do so, and to speak to 
him about the Continental series of books I once talked 
to you of. I don't know whether you have dismissed the 
idea, but I have not, and he looks as if he might be a 
likely man. Talking of that, I had a distant notion of 
the pleasure of editorial surprises by a sudden proposal 
from the beautiful Mar6chale, Mrs Macdonald's daughter, 
to do Heine, whose family she knows and from whom she 
thought she could get unpublished matter ! It was very 
funny. You or any mortal man would of course have 



i87i.] A TRYING WINTER EXPERIENCE. 23 1 

undertaken to publish anything on the spot, for the sake 
of her beaux ytux. She is a very lovely young woman, 
and clever too, but whether in the way of books I should 
doubt. 

... I had the most comical account of Mr Oliphant's 
colony the other day from Miss S. She said they held 
"community of wives and children" — or at least she 
knew the children were in common, and she supposed 
he had not mentioned the wives because of her presence ! 
Don't tell him. 

A terrible winter visit to the Ch&teau of La Roche en 
Bressy — the country seat of the Montalemberts — was 
undertaken at this time for the purpose of obtaining 
materials for Comte de Montalembert's biography. Mrs 
Oliphant took her little Cecco with her for company, and 
had great need of the solace, for she hated to be out of 
her own house (except with one or two beloved friends), 
and she felt that her time and labour were being wasted. 
Some of the following letters are to the cousin who for 
several years was her intimate and housekeeper. 

To Cousin Annie. La Roche en Bressy, Dec. 1. 

. . . Nothing can well be less comfortable or more 
dreary than my life here, and but for the absolute duty 
I should have left La Roche before now. It has been 
raining more or less for three days. Yesterday and the 
day before Cecco and I (the only people in the house who 
thought of such a thing) ventured out a little, wading 
through the snow. This morning it is worse than ever, 
snowing fast, and nothing but a sheet of white visible 
from the windows. To crown all other desagrements, Lina 
[her maid], who was to have left for Switzerland to-day, 
is laid up, having had two of her attacks in succession. 
My materials come to me very slowly. 

The course of life here is odd enough. I don't know 



232 



LETTERS. 



[1871. 



that it would suit you badly, but I can't say I like it. 
We leave our rooms at midday only for the dejeuner. 
After that, unless there are visitors, all disperse again to 
their rooms, meeting only at dinner, which is at half-past 
six. We then go to the drawing-room till ten. So that 
the social life of the household is entirely confined to the 
three hours and a half in the evening. Sometimes, as 
this is an exceptional moment, and the family are all 
employed more or less upon M. de Montalembert's 
papers, they all go to the library for an hour or two after 
the dejeuner ; but this is evidently an accidental matter, 
and the natural way is what I have said. Of course 
they visit each other in their rooms, I suppose. Some- 
times I feel as if this leisurely reading of a dozen pages 
or so of a journal might go on for ever and ever, and I 
grow intensely impatient, knowing how little time I have 
to give. But the idea of a life like mine of course could 
never enter into the heads of these good people, who 
are kind as kind can be, but evidently think my work 
is entirely a work of predilection, and that I can spend 
upon it as much time as pleases me — Alas ! 

To Mr Blackwood. La Roche en Bressy, Dec. 2. 

The vie de chateau is the coldest vie I ever had anything 
to do with. The journey was terrible, five hours driving 
after the railway ; but the chateau might be (must be, I 
sometimes think) in Siberia instead of the C6te d'Or. I 
never in my life felt such cold. Everything is stone and 
ice. I inhabit a vast tapestried chamber, and have a 
section of a tower for my dressing-room, in the midst of 
which grandeur I shiver. I tremble too with impatience 
to find myself in the midst of masses of papers which 
would make my work most interesting and easy, but which 
I am not permitted to have access to. Montalembert, it 
appears, kept a journal from his twelfth year to the end 
of his life, and I am tantalised with the sight of these 
volumes, which Madame de M. reads to me for a couple 
of hours in the afternoon. We have been at it a week, 



x87i.] 



A COMICAL POSITION. 



233 



and have got to his eighteenth year ! Imagine my feel- 
ings, I have, however, raised a standard of rebellion, 
and declared that I cannot give more than next week 
entire, which begins to quicken the movements of my 
most kind hostess. It is very difficult, however, to in- 
timate delicately to people whom any part of his life 
interests that all the details are not equally interesting to 
me. They are all extremely complimentary about the 
little paper in the Magazine, and I have been congratu- 
lated on all sides on having so thoroughly understood 
Montalembert 's character, which is satisfactory so far, 
though I have had such hours of explanation about his 
attitude in regard to the Infallibility question, that I wish 
the Pope at Jericho a hundred times in a day. The 
position is comical, and I think some time or other I 
must write a paper on the tribulations of a historian in 
search o information. 

Letter from Cecco (aged eleven years). 

Hotel Mirabbau, Paris, 14M Dec, 

My dear Cousin Annie, — The principal reason why I 
have not written to you is that I have been working at 
the Montalembert genealogical-tree trying to get it done. 
I hope everybody at home is all right. I received all 
the letters on Wednesday. Last Friday at La Roche 
we drove to a stone cross in the woods (all of which 
nearly were planted by M. de Montalembert), which 
was also erected by him. The drive was cold and 
miserable enough for me as I sat on the box. I got 
some stamps and seals the other day from Mdlle. Le 
Due; most of them I had got already, but there were 
some Belgian new issue which I had not got. We 
have no proper coachman here. A labourer called La 
Motte generally drives us, but not always, Sylvain the 
rcgisseur sometimes taking his place. On Tuesday, my 
birthday, we left for Semur. 1 It was a very pretty road, 
but Semur, we found, was much prettier. The whole 

1 Semur is the scene of " A Beleaguered City." 



234 



LETTERS. 



[1871. 



town slopes up to the middle, where stands the cathedral, 
which is very large and beautiful both outside and inside, 
though all the images had been torn from their niches in 
the front of the church. There were also four curious 
old towers at the gate. The rampart has within it 
another rampart of trees, which looks very pretty. A 
pretty broad stream runs through the town, and the 
view from the bridge is very pretty. The gardens, one 
above the other, only separated by little walls on the left, 
and to the right a dark pine- wood with a path quite white 
with snow leading up to it, which made a very pretty 
contrast. We arrived at Paris at half-past ten, but could 
not get into our cab before eleven. The roads were 
covered with snow, not white but brown, and it was 
about twelve when we reached the Mirabeau. Here we 
got apartments looking on the court, which we didn't 
want them to be. I was out buying presents this morn- 
ing in the Rue de Rivoli. Mama was this afternoon at 
Versailles, and is now at Lady Oliphant's at dinner. 

I can't think of anything else to tell just now, so with 
love to Tiddy and Frank, I remain, your affectionate 
cousin. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 18M Dec. 

On the whole, though our sufferings were great, I am 
glad to have been at La Roche. It is impossible to 
understand any fashion of life without sharing it, and 
the curious little village community of a place so far out 
of the world is extremely quaint. Mme. de Montalem- 
bert begged me to say mille choses to you from her, and 
was very sorry she had not the chance of seeing you. 
She says her husband gave them a most charming ac- 
count of Strathtyrum and all your surroundings. She 
intends to make a run over to England and Scot- 
land in spring, coming in April, in order to take her 
daughter, a very charming girl, to all the places which 
Montalembert visited and described. The said Mdlle. 
Madeleine would give her ears to hunt, and describes her- 



i87i.] 



THE DELIGHTS OF HUNTING. 



235 



self as no end of a horsewoman. I told her that she 
must absolutely make acquaintance with Mrs Blackwood, 
though I fear that the delights of hunting would scarcely 
be attainable in April. 

... Mr Oliphant showed me the proofs of your new 
photograph, which is lovely. It is by much the best and 
most true likeness which I have ever seen of you, though 
perhaps just a trifle too spruce. In short, it represents 
you as much too dangerous an individual to be allowed to 
go about gallivanting by yourself, and Mrs Blackwood 
ought to look to it. Please let me have a copy when you 
get them. Lady Oliphant's was extremely good also — 
very like her, but cutting at least thirty years off her age 
at one stroke. What a very delightful process ! 



236 LETTERS. [187a. 



1872. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 2nd February. 

. . . My idea in coupling Southey and Keats was — 
their absolute unsuitability. They are the very opposite 
poles, and as one has a sort of artificial connection with 
the Byronic school, so has the other with the Lake school ; 
so that I thought I might treat them together as hangers- 
on of these two real fountains of poetry. I am very much 
afraid that you and I will come to blows about Byron. 
I did not read him young as most people do, and accord- 
ingly have never worshipped him, and he is to me a 
gigantic sham in everything but poetry. Of course I 
shall keep clear of the mud in which he is embedded, 
and especially of the last mud thrown by Mrs Stowe, and 
will endeavour to do him poetically all the justice pos- 
sible. I should like to take in Campbell. He and Moore 
might come very well together, but Moore is nothing in 
my opinion, and never would have been anything but for 
the lovely music he is identified with. Crabbe, too, I 
should like to take up. I enclose a little note of the poets 
done and proposed. Please make what corrections you 
like. 

When you have time, pray look at my story, and tell 
me if you like the beginning, for "my barmy noddle's 
working prime," and if you don't like that I want to write 
to you about something else. 

Windsor, 28M February. 
... I did not go to London yesterday. . . . We had 
grand doings here, however. There is a curious sort of a 
man called Richardson Gardiner, who has contested the 
borough more than once on the Conservative side (don't 
be angry, he was a red-hot Radical first, but found, I sup- 
pose, that that did not answer), and whose efforts to keep 
himself before the public are very funny. He heard, it is 
said, a report, which was false, that the member for 



1872.] 



A MOTHER'S FORECAST. 



237 



Windsor meant to roast an ox whole on the Thanksgiving 
Day, and he accordingly sent orders to roast three oxen, 
which was done yesterday in presence of a delighted 
crowd. There was a large bonfire in addition, and fire- 
works and illuminations, in which delights Jack shared 
with my boys. I must wind up this long history, how- 
ever, by telling you a capital remark of a poor woman who 
is to benefit by the beef. In answer to some suggestion 
that such a benefactor of the people should be returned 
at next election — " No, no," said this philosopher; " let's 
keep him out : if he were elected he would be just as use- 
less as Roger [our member], and we'd get nothing out of 
him I" 

Windsor, 30M March. 
As you have been my very kind friend always, let me 
tell you once more exactly what my position is. My 
money is almost always spent before I get it, or received 
only just in time for pressing necessities, so that the 
pleasant sensation of feeling even three months clear 
before me is one which very rarely occurs to me. I have 
four people, an entire family, three of them requiring 
education, absolutely on my hands to provide for. My 
only chance of ever escaping from this burden is to train 
and push on my nephew into a position in which he can 
take this weight upon himself. This process of course 
involves a great additional expense, and I cannot let my 
own boys suffer for what I am obliged to do for him. 
For the next three years, during which I shall have all 
three at work, I can look forward to nothing but a fight a 
outrance for money : however, it is to be honestly come by. 
I don't care how much or how hard I work, and fortunately 
my sanguine temperament and excellent health save me 
from the gnawing of anxiety which would kill many people. 
At the end of these three years Frank, I hope, will have a 
capital position, and be able to relieve me to a consider- 
able extent, and Tiddy will have reached the age to which 
scholarships are possible, and according to all human 
probability will be able to do much of what remains to his 
education for himself. Now, perhaps, it would be wiser, 



238 



LETTERS. 



[187a. 



with this tremendous struggle before me, to retire from 
my pretty house and pleasant surroundings and go to 
some cheap village where I could live at less expense. I 
hold myself ready to do this should the necessity abso- 
lutely arise ; but you will easily understand that while still 
in the full tide of middle life I shrink from such a sacri- 
fice, and would rather work to the utmost of my powers 
than withdraw from all that makes existence agreeable : 
at the same time, I hold myself ready to make the sacrifice 
should it prove absolutely necessary. My life is insured, 
and I trust I will always, as long as I live, be able to do 
something small or great, so that I think I am justified, as 
long as strength and work hold out, to pursue the career 
I have marked out for myself. I never can save money, 
but if I can rear three men who may be good for some- 
thing in the world, I shall not have lived for nothing. 
Twelve years ago I began my solitary life a thousand 
pounds in debt. I don't think in all my life since I began 
my independent career that I have ever got five pounds I 
did not work for. I tell you all this not to complain but 
to explain. Pardon me for it. I shall not do it again ; 
but I hope it will make you understand better the prin- 
ciples of my life. What I am doing is not done without 
much and serious thought, nor am I insensible to the 
fact, perhaps the hardest of all, that I must resign myself 
to do second-class work all my life from lack of time to 
do myself full justice. I make this sacrifice, however, 
with my eyes open, not deceiving myself on the subject. 
One of my boys, perhaps, may take up my imperfection 
and make it into something worthy to live. 

Pardon me for this exposition of self. I don't ask for 
any pity, for I am probably as happy as most people with 
it all, but I should like to think you understood me. 

I am very glad to hear you are thinking of going abroad, 
and applaud Puck immensely for her diplomacy. You 
will enjoy everything twice as much for the sight of her 
enjoyment. I hope I shall see you on your way through 
London. 



1872.] 



THE TROUBLES OF BIOGRAPHERS. 



239 



Some letters written at this time are amusing as a 
picture of the troubles sometimes befalling biographers. 
When Madame de Montalembert departed after her 
second visit, during which she had been most urgent 
about certain alterations, she left her hostess absolutely 
exhausted, and almost ready to yield anything. 

To Mr William Blackwood. Windsor, 18M June. 

Thanks for your letter: it will answer the purpose 
admirably. I send off by post to-day 100 pages for press, 
which will clinch the matter. But alas, pity me! the 
Countess has just written to say that she is coming down 
here again to-day to read over the second volume with 
me. I hope I shall be alive at the end of the reading, but 
what with the hot weather, and a most eloquent and 
energetic member of the noble house of De M6rode, I 
don't know what is to become of me. . . . 

What with my flitting and this invasion of the — not 
Goths, but delightfullest and troublesomest Gauls, I am 
rather hardly called upon just now. 

Windsor, 17M July. 
. . . Heaven be praised, indeed, that this terrible book 
is now out of hands ! If the public are as much pleased 
as his friends are, we shall have nothing to complain of. 

Windsor, 22nd October. 

... By the way, I have never had your last word 
about the Continental Classics. Pray give it me. I 
should not wish to begin any such series without at least 
six unquestionable names secured, which should take 
away all likelihood of loss. 

I have begun, partly to amuse myself, and on a sudden 
impulse, a new series of the * Chronicles of Carlingford ' 
to be called * Phcebe Junior,' and to embody the history 
of the highly intellectual and much-advanced family of 
the late Miss Phoebe Tozer. I don't know whether you 
will have any interest in this or not, but you have a right 
to be told of it at least. 



240 LETTERS. [1873* 



1873. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 21st January. 

. . . I am a good deal amused and rather flattered in 
my amour propre by the revelations of the ' Times * this 
morning about Lord Lytton. His name had occurred 
to me in connection with the 'Coming Race/ but I 
dismissed the idea as impossible. The second number 
of the ' Parisians ' I was convinced came somehow from 
him, but circumstances seemed so much against it that 
I propounded to my friends the notion that the author 
must be Mrs Lytton, which might account for the un- 
questionable Bulwerism of the book. I feel quite pleased 
that I was so close on the heels of the mystery. I hope 
it is true that the story is finished. 

Windsor, 6th February. 
... I enclose Mr Kinglake's letter. Thanks for send- 
ing it to me. Your other correspondent is hypercritical. 
That I should extract the only amusing thing out of a 
slight and dull book may, I think, be easily pardoned me. 
As for the Hares, I refrained from saying anything about 
the sonship, which was no sonship, simply because it 
seemed to take away the only excuse for the mawkish 
worship of the book ; and seeing I expressed my opinion 
of it fully, I did not think it necessary to dwell upon 
this detail. The book was (before I opened it) more 
interesting than usual to me, from the fact that I knew 
Mrs Julius Hare very well. But your correspondent's 
opinion, even had I had the advantage of knowing it 
before I wrote my paper, is not mine, and I can only 
review books at all on the condition that I express my 
own feelings in respect to them. It is of course in your 
power to bid me refrain from reviewing any particular 
book or any books at all, but I can only say what I think 



I873-] FICTITIOUS REPUTATIONS. 241 

and not what other people think, whatever the uni- 
versities may say. I read every word of both the books 
mentioned, to my pain and sorrow. . . . The tremendous 
applause which has greeted this performance is a good 
specimen of the sort of thing which I am anxious to 
struggle against — the fictitious reputation got up by men 
who happen to be "remembered at the Universities," 
and who have many connections among literary men. 

Windsor, 13M May. 

What a terrible question you ask me about the sequence 
of my books ! Thank Heaven, I don't remember much 
one year what I wrote the year before, which is a special 
dispensation of Providence, I think, in my behalf; for 
how could I write another word more if my conscience 
was oppressed with a recollection of all the rubbish 
I have poured upon the world ? ' Katie Stewart * 1 was, 
I think, the third — the proofs of it came to me, I re- 
member, on the morning of my wedding-day ; and there 
was a book called ' Merkland,' of which I have a faint 
recollection, between. The Carlingford books were begun 
in the year '60 or '61, when I was very low in spirit and 
hope, and after you had snubbed me very much, as you 
have been doing lately! Please don't let anybody up- 
braid me with writing too much until the year 1876, if 
we live to see it, by which time I hope the bulk of the 
schooling will be over, and I will not mind it. 

I am sorry that Browning's last appearance is not 
worthy of him. The only amends Miss Thackeray can 
make him for seducing him to choose such an absurd 
title for a book 2 is to marry him, it seems to me. 

Windsor, 5M June. 
By that curious chance which seems to rule over acci- 
dents, the Magazine never arrived this month, and I 

1 ' Katie Stewart ' seems to have been really the fifth book, the order being : 
'Mrs Margaret Maitland,' 'Caleb Field/ 'Merkland,' 'Adam Graeme of 
Mossgray,' 'Katie Stewart.' 

2 ' Red Cotton Nightcap Country.' 

Q 



242 



LETTERS. 



[1873- 



have only seen it for the first time this morning, having 
written to Mr Langford to ask for a copy. A thousand 
thanks for the friendly thought which suggested the re- 
view. The article itself is excellent and full of good 
feeling, but let me thank you first for thinking of it. I 
have not had too many encouragements of the kind. 
Your contributor says so much that is most flattering 
and delightful to me, that I am sure he could have said 
much that would have been valuable also in the way 
of criticism had he chosen; but probably I should not 
have liked that so much ! I am very much gratified by 
his notice of my earlier books, sad stuff though many 
of them seem to me now, and by his appreciation of 
some special characters which have not caught the public 
eye perhaps so much as I thought they might have done, 
and especially by his notice of the 'Son of the Soil,' 
which was written at the most sorrowful moment of my 
life, when I was wading very deep in grief and doubt 
and all the discouragement which grief brings. I do 
not venture to guess who the author is, but I should 
be very glad to know. Certain geographical deficiencies 
prove his confession that he is not Scotch. Will you 
tell me to whom I am indebted for so kind an appre- 
ciation of my work? Anyhow, I am heartily grateful 
to him (I suppose it is him?) and you. 

Windsor, 26M November. 

... I have entirely given up the notion of writing a 
story at present for the ' Graphic.' . . . 

Tids has just come back from Oxford, where he was 
trying for the Balliol scholarship (though without the 
least idea of getting it, as he has still two years at Eton). 
I hear that he passed a very creditable examination, and 
that his English essay was the second in order of merit* 
I am sure you will sympathise with me in my special 
pleasure in this respect. I had not had much confidence 
in his literary powers. 



ANONYMOUS REVIEWING. 



243 



1874. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 9M Febry. 

Thanks for letting me read Lord Lytton's letter. I see 
no reason why he should not know who his reviewer is, 
except that I think one usually thinks much less of the 
praise when one is aware of the identity of the writer. 
However, as it is an object worth considering, to connect 
the name which my boys, I hope, will make something of, 
with here and there a favourable prepossession, I have no 
objection to your telling him. In cases where the pre- 
possession will be unfavourable, it is always known ! 

I am not doing anything for this month but 'Valen- 
tine,' which I am anxious to get on with. I wish I could 
have the advantage of reading this out to you : even the 
mere fact of hearing how it reads is such an advantage to 
a writer, and it is one of the drawbacks of getting old 
that domestic criticism becomes impossible — at least to a 
person in my position. I am going to Florence in the 
Easter holidays to revive my impressions of the place for 
a book to be published with illustrations which Mr Mac- 
millan has asked me to do. I shall take Tids with me, 
but the trip will be a very rapid one, as we shall only 
have about three weeks. Should you care to have one or 
two articles about the subjects which I am going to 
study ? Dante, Michael Angelo, and Savonarola are my 
three chief points, and I should not like to lose any of my 
material. I should be very glad of any introductions you 
could give me in Florence, as you have been so lately 
there — or were you there ? Perhaps I am making a 
mistake. 

What a curious change in the political world ! I hope 
Mr Disraeli, who I suppose must come in, will be able to 
work with everybody, and will have a good majority. I 
have no great sympathy with your side, but the Emperor 



244 



LETTERS. 



[1874- 



Gladstone has been getting really too much. We have a 
terrible man here as the successful Conservative candidate, 
which does not help one to get over one's prejudices. 

Windsor, 12M March. 

... I meant my Val to be the least good of the two 
lads, but I am getting to like him ! The other must turn 
out to be the eldest. I will revise it all carefully, and if I 
can find anything to shorten will do so. I want to have 
an election for the county with Valentine, grown up, as 
candidate, which should bring up all the floating stories 
about him, and give the other side a chance of saying 
their worst ; but the boyhood is perhaps too attractive 
to me, surrounded as I am by boys. 

I shall send you my paper on Saturday. The books I 
have taken are Mrs Somerville (with which I am en- 
chanted, and which recalls to me my mother and even 
my own recluse childhood in the most delightful way), 
Ampere's pretty touching story, I think the letters of 
Merim6e (' A une Inconnue*), on which you can conclude 
when you see them, and your prodigious Elliot book, 
which does not charm me so much. The Merim6e letters 
are absolutely spotless so far as morals go, and very 
pretty in many parts. I suppose the Inconnue must be 
Connue; but there is sufficient mystery to permit the 
critic to deal with it as an entirely dark matter, and there 
is much that is very charming, humorous, and tender in 
the letters themselves. If you do not like what I say 
about them, you can cut it out. Dr Guthrie I meant to 
treat as the most rampant specimen of the good-natured 
complacent Philistine I have met with for a long time. 
The smug self-content of the book is simply odious to me, 
and gives a very miserable exhibition of what his public 
like and esteem as the best. Must I not be permitted to 
say so ? On this question too you must decide when you 
get the paper. I don't mind doing it, even if you don't 
publish it at all, for it serves the purpose of one of those 
little walks an artist takes away from his picture which he 



A LORD MAYOR'S DINNER. 



245 



is in the act of painting — letting me see my more import- 
ant work from a little distance. 

Windsor, 24M July. 

. . . About the Classics. I think the most effective 
review of them would be done from the unlearned point 
of view, without any pretence of knowing better — in short, 
as one of the English readers for whom they are intended : 
don't you think so ? You might put an editorial note to 
say that this was done on purpose. 

Have you no mind for my Continental Classics, now 
that the others are done ? I think they would be quite 
as attractive. 

We have been roasted and baked and grilled here to 
such an extent that the coolness of St Andrews is very 
tempting. Fortunately even here the heat has moderated. 
The Lord Mayor's dinner was amusing. I sat next 
Matthew Arnold, with whom I struck up an acquaintance, 
and liked him better in his own person than in his books. 
He, Anthony Trollope, Mr Hughes, Charles Reade, and 
myself were the sole representatives of literature (barring 
the press) that I could see; but oh! my ladies of the 
Opera, how fine they were ! The dinner was bad ! fancy 
that in the Mansion House ! I offered Tiddy 5s. for a copy 
of verses on the occasion (he was with me), but the 
monkey thinks the price too small, and wants to know 
first how much I get for mine! 

To Miss Blackwood. Windsor, 22nd Sept. 

. . . Tids has attained the dignity of sixth form, and 
thinks no small-beer of himself, and Cecco is already an 
old and experienced Etonian. I am sure you will be 
pleased to know also that my nephew Frank has done 
admirably, gained himself a scholarship at his college, 
and quite justified me in my expenditure for him, which 
is a great comfort. 

Windsor, igtA October. 
I have, I trust, done what you want in respect to the 
paper enclosed. I agree with you that Mr Collins's 



246 



LETTERS. 



[1874. 



volumes are very good, but I don't agree with you about 
Mr Trollope, whose 'Caesar* I cannot read without laugh- 
ing — it is so like Johnny Eames. I hope your supple- 
mentary series will include Lucretius. The two little bits 
from Virgil in this paper are Tiddy's, as were the Greek 
quotations in my last, so I can scarcely put a name to 
them. They are his first appearance in print. 

Windsor, 26M December. 

. . . Tiddy, I am sorry to say, was not successful in the 
Balliol examination. I said all along that I did not hope it, 
as he was a year under age ; but I suppose I must have 
hoped all the same, for I was considerably disappointed. 
He was mentioned as having distinguished himself in the 
examination, but did not get anything. However, I hope 
he will get either a scholarship somewhere else or an 
exhibition at Balliol next year. He will be just a fort- 
night too old next November to try for the scholarship 
there again, which is very annoying. The others have 
been getting on very well. . . . 

Let me hear about yourself and your boys, poor fellows, 
scattered as they are. As this is Frank's last Christmas 
at home, we are doing all we can to make it a merry one 
for him. Next year I expect everything to be changed. 
The little girls are going to a school we have found for 
them in Germany, and my brother will also leave me for 
a time at least. And Frank goes to India and Tids to 
Oxford, and I mean to let my house and try six months' 
utter retrenchment in a lodging at Eton. But all this, I 
think, I told you before. 



I 




.Mmtw. «.?/.a. 



A MASSACRE OF INNOCENTS. 



247 



I875- 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 15/* February. 

... I am much gratified by the kind messages from 
Mr Kinglake. It is a great pleasure to think that my 
work is liked by any one so well able to judge. Pray tell 
him that I have been an admirer of his for — Heaven 
knows how long ! — since the days when I was shocked and 
delighted by ' Eothen.* I remember being very much 
amused by the opening out of two old neighbours of mine 
at Ealing, after a discussion of his first volume. In the 
enthusiasm created by it one of them, an old Peninsular 
officer, instructed me carefully how to make a pontoon 
bridge and get my (!) troops over it; while the other, 
Admiral Collinson, burst forth into naval experiences. 

Windsor, 19M March. 
. . . My nerves were a good deal upset with illness, 
which reacted, I suppose, upon my work. By the bye, 
adversity has brought me acquainted with such a swarm 
of ridiculous novels that I feel a great desire to let loose 
my opinion on the subject. The badness, the silliness, 
the utter futility of them is something quite appalling, 
and really ought not to be put up with. Next month 
perhaps I might be allowed a massacre of these not 
innocents, for they seem to have got the length of a posi- 
tive plague. 

I enclose Mr Kinglake's letter ; very many thanks for 
letting me see it? I am much flattered by his good 
opinion. 

We are beginning to get better weather here, so I hope 
it may soon reach you. My unwellness is not in the 
least, I believe, of a kind to touch life, and is there- 
fore not interesting, but it is very worrying and uncom- 
fortable. 



248 LETTERS. [1875. 

This illness was an extremely painful form of neuralgia, 
which returned once or twice, but seems to have made no 
serious attack upon Mrs Oliphant's wonderfully sound 
and vigorous constitution. She could endure the most 
amazing amount of fatigue, except in walking, which was 
for many years painful and laborious to her. 

Windsor, 16M July, 

My anxieties have come to an end in the saddest way. 
My poor brother died on Wednesday night. Notwith- 
standing the inevitable severance which long years and 
difference of sentiments makes, I feel the natural pang of 
the parting more than I expected, and am almost glad 
that it is so. However (and that is saddest of all), there 
is no feeling possible but that it is best that his shattered 
life should have ended now, while still his children are 
with him, and all the last pious olfices can be paid him 
by his son's hands. I am writing out of the gloom of the 
shut-up house, which is so trying to the nerves. The 
funeral takes place to-morrow. 

To Miss Blackwood, Windsor, July 2a 

. . • All has been got over quietly. I am so much 
more affected in every way by the event than I had 
expected, that I am going away for a day or two in the 
hopes of coming back to my work more fit for it than I 
feel now. One cannot but feel that the best thing that 
could have happened was that my poor Frank should 
have been taken away before his children left him, and 
yet I feel the loss as much, perhaps more, than I should 
have done had his life been brighter and more valuable. 
It seems altogether so sad, and saddest of all in that it is 
the best that could have happened. He who was never 
out of one room seems now to pervade all the house, and 
with remorse I miss him dead of whom I was so often 
impatient when he was living. 



BOCCACCIO BOWDLERISED. 



249 



To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, July 27. 

... I wanted to ask you about a little matter I have 
been thinking of. I have been obliged, in preparing for 
my Florentine book (of which ornate production I hope 
to send Mrs Blackwood a copy at Christmas by way 
of guide-book for the tour I hear you are thinking of), to 
rummage through Boccaccio's and Sacchetti's stories. A 
great many of them are very unsavoury ; but there are, 
as I daresay you know, the most wonderful bits of medi- 
eval life in them, and I think a selection, quite unim- 
peachable and very interesting, might be made. This 
idea came into my head in connection with my poor 
friend Mrs Macpherson, whom you may recollect, and 
who has been left very badly off, struggling as best she 
can to get a poor living by all manner of little occupa- 
tions. Summer is a bad season for poor people in Rome 
who are dependent upon the vagaries of rich people, and 
I thought, if you would entertain the idea of making a 
volume such as I have described of the innocent 
"Novelle" from the 'Decameron* and the other pro- 
ductions of Boccaccio, and from the much less known 
and less objectionable Sacchetti, she and I might manage 
it between us — I as editor and expounder, making myself 
responsible for the style and arrangement, which of 
course I should do with great care, and she taking the 
rough work of the translation. What do you think 
of it ? 

My nephew has finished his studies at Cooper's Hill, 
taking a first-class. He has chosen the Punjaub, as it is 
the privilege of the highest placed students to choose 
their district, and goes out in October. Nothing could 
be more satisfactory than his career at Cooper's Hill, and 
I trust he will do no less well in the future. Thus one 
of my anxieties is disposed of. Death has taken away 
another, and I trust my life may be less burdened in the 
future; but in the meantime this is a somewhat tre- 
mendous moment. 



LETTERS. 



[1875. 



To Miss Blackwood. GRINDELWALD, 24th August. 

I intended to have written to you long ago, but you 
know how little time one seems to have in a strange 
place, and I have been working more or less all the 
time. 

We have been getting along very pleasantly on the 
whole. We came straight through to Interlaken — that 
is, Cecco and I — and were there joined by Tiddy and 
Frank, who had taken the little girls to their school in 
Germany, and came round by Constance and Zurich to 
meet us. . . . 

We have met with Miss Thackeray and her sister, and 
have seen a great deal of them for the last ten days ; and 
now the sister's husband, Mr Leslie Stephen, a great 
Alpine man, has just arrived, and the boys are going off 
with him to the ice to-morrow, to their great satisfaction, 
though I feel a little nervous. They have already been 
up a big hill on their own account and walking a great 
deal, and are enjoying their expedition thoroughly. We 
had glorious weather at Interlaken, only very hot, but up 
here among the mountains it is rather stormy and wet. 
On Saturday we are going to Mtirren for a few days, where 
I intended to have gone long ago, and then to Chamouni, 
and then by Geneva and Paris, home, where, notwith- 
standing all the glories of Switzerland, I shall be glad 
to be. 

Windsor, 27M September, 
. . . My engineer boy leaves on the 24th October 
for the Punjaub. I should be very much obliged, if you 
know anybody thereabouts (!), if you would kindly give 
him a word of introduction. He is a very good boy, 
and will do no one any discredit, I feel sure. 

How about Jack ? Does he go to Christ Church this 
term ? I hope we may perhaps see more of him from 
Oxford, as the boys are constantly coming and going. I 
shall go with Tids to settle him, and if I can be of any 
use to Jack at the same time I should be very glad. I 
suppose they are the better of a little aid in settling their 



I875-] THE LAUNCH INTO LIFE. 251 

small domesticities. One's heart quakes a little launch- 
ing them off into the world — at least the feminine heart 
does. I suppose you men who have gone through it and 
know the dangers take it more easily than we do, to 
whom it is all terrible in the mystery of the unknown. 
Alas that they can't remain children always ! I don't 
know whether you feel as I do the inherent absurdity of 
the idea that we should be getting old and they should be 
getting men. It feels preposterous, and rather a bad joke 
sometimes. 

To Miss Blackwood. Windsor, October. 

... I have been so very much occupied that I have 
had no time to do or think of anything except the boys 
and their manifold preparations. I went to Oxford with 
Tiddy on Friday, and left him on Saturday settled in 
very nice rooms at Balliol, and amidst so many friends 
that I don't think he will feel the separation much, 
though I do. Two of his chief cronies, Farrer and 
Brodrick, both of whom you met here and heard at the 
Speeches on the 4th of June, are in the same quadrangle 
with him. He has got a charming, big, lofty sitting- 
room on the first floor, with a bedroom opening from it. 
I had a party of youths to luncheon before I left, all his 
intimates, and he is surrounded by acquaintances. I 
hope he will be a good boy and work well. One cannot 
but have many tremors at thus launching one's child 
into life. Frank's launch is a more thorough one, it is 
true, but he has got over the first probation. Tids' trials 
are all to come. His scholarship is called the Bryant. 
It is about £50 a-year for three years. I hope he will 
get something else before long. Frank is to sail on 
Saturday in the Crocodile from Portsmouth. When you 
are writing to your nephew George will you recommend 
him in case they should come across each other ? 

Windsor, 2nd December. 
I am sure you will be grieved to hear of Mrs Leslie 



252 



LETTERS. 



[1875. 



Stephen's death, Thackeray's youngest daughter, with 
which I was brought most sadly into connection by the 
fact that her sister was staying with me at the time. I 
think I told you that we had met and seen a great deal 
of them in Switzerland. Mrs Stephen was in a delicate 
state, . . . and Miss Thackeray, whose perfect devotion 
and almost subjection to her I never saw equalled, had 
made up her mind with some doubt to be absent from 
her for one evening to come to me, partly to see me, 
partly to do honour to poor Mr Oscar Browning. . . . 
She was telegraphed for next morning, and hurried to 
London, . . . but her sister was dead before she got 
there. I had asked one or two people to dinner to meet 
her, and you may imagine the ghastly effect of a vacant 
place so caused. The final news came just as we were 
sitting down to dinner. I cannot get over the heart- 
breaking effect of it. 

Windsor, 13M DecemUr. 
... I have not enjoyed Tids' absence at all, as yon 
may well suppose ; indeed the three months seem to have 
flitted over in a kind of a dream, not even good for work, 
though the loneliness and quiet ought to have been of 
use for so much as that, at least ; but now the holidays 
are close at hand, and my boy will be back on Wednes- 
day. I have the best accounts of him: he seems to have 
got nice friends, and even my ferocious anxieties which 
feed upon nothing have been kept under. Cecco has 
been very good and comfortable in his brother's absence, 
his only fault being that he is too fond of home, and 
prefers my society to that of other boys, which I don't 
think quite good for him. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, Chris/mas. 

Let me wish you all the good that can be put into a wish 
for this time and all times. Thank Heaven, so long as 
the children are about, Merry Christmases and Happy 
New Years are still possible, and don't hurt instead of 
giving pleasure. Though we are growing old, I suppose, 



MATERNAL ANXIETIES. 



253 



the sensation is still half amusing and not very severe. 
God bless you and yours not only for the New Year but 
at all times and seasons. Pray give my affectionate good 
wishes to Mrs Blackwood, Mary, and Jack. I suppose 
the latter hero will be an Oxford man next year, like my 
own freshman, who has come back after his first term, I 
am glad to say (though my heart has been in my mouth 
all the time), rather improved in homeliness, kindness, 
and simplicity than otherwise. I got a very good ac- 
count of him, but he did not get an exhibition at Balliol 
as I hoped. He was one out, I believe, only, which is 
rather aggravating. He seems to have formed a friend- 
ship with a young brother (he thinks) of Major Lockhart. 
By the bye, how good and clever his (Major Lockhart's) 
verses are which you sent me. . . . 



254 



LETTERS. 



[1876. 



1876 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 4M January. 

. . . Just before your letter came I had been read- 
ing an old letter of my dear mother's written in 1852, 
recounting with great delight and pride your compli- 
mentary letters to me about * Katie Stewart,' and blow- 
ing her own little trumpet, dear soul, over her "little 
Maggie " ! It was sent back to me by a relation by 
the same post which brought yours. And this reminds me 
to thank you very much indeed for what you say about 
' Whiteladies.' I thought the book was not bad, but 
as no critic except the singularly stupid one who " does 
for" the 'Times' has even noticed it, I had begun to 
feel that I must be mistaken. Dreadful penalty of too 
much writing, but I am glad indeed that you approve 
of it. 

To her Nephew, Mr Frank Wilson. Windsor, 13M January. 

. . . Tids has come back from Oxford since I wrote 
you last, and I think in my last letter to you I talked 
to you of the anxiety I could not help feeling about 
his first start in independent life. Thank God, in every- 
thing he seems to have acted so as to put my fears all 
to flight and to give me confidence for the future, and 
has come home not only quite unchanged but even more 
completely Tids than he was before — as fresh, as boyish, 
and as good as a boy can be. I can't tell you how 
thankful and how happy I am in this. I was very much 
frightened for the ordeal, and he seems to have come 
through it scatheless. He has not succeeded about the 
exhibition, but that is a very much lesser matter. There 
is some talk at present about standing for the Cowper 
Scholarship, but this is not yet decided— you shall hear 
about it after. 



1876.] 



A HORNET'S NEST. 



255 



To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, ioM February. 

... I met Mr William Blackwood at Colonel Ches- 
ney's last night, and hope to see him here to-day. I had 
heard of Mr Oliphant's arrival. He came over from 
New York in the same ship with my friend Mrs M.'s 
son. Has he fallen into telegraphy 1 and prosperity, 
and abandoned the wilder side of life and opinion? I 
should like to see him. I am glad to tell you that Miss 
Thackeray liked the little paper on her father. I had a 
note from her about it. 

I am glad to hear so good an account of you all in 
health and welfare. Your nephew tells me you are seri- 
ously thinking of Italy in the spring. Lucky people ! 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Windsor, ist March. 

. . . There is not much news to give you. I am 
better (I think I grumbled last week), and working 
through the mountain of work under which, however, 
I still groan. Did I tell you that I have brought a 
hornet's nest about my ears by describing the Military 
Knights in my new story? I think cousin Annie has 
sent off the first number to you (the ' Cornhill '), and 
we will keep it up as long as the story goes on. I am 
very sorry to have vexed the old men, though of course 
I had not the least intention of doing so, and did not 
expect the sketch to be so readily recognised. You will 
see I have kept the Castle out altogether, which I thought 
would mystify the people. However, I have been too 
close. . . . Everybody is still in great doubt and sus- 
pense about the war, afraid one morning that we may 
be drawn into it, and reassured the next, only to be 
plunged back again. Do you ever come in contact with 
the Mussulman population, and what do you think of 
them ? There is a novel not very long published by a 
Mr Allardyce called the 4 City of Sunshine,' entirely about 
Indian (not Anglo-Indian) life, which gives a very fine 

1 Mr Laurence Oliphant had been occupied with the affairs of the United 
States Cable Company. 



256 



LETTERS. 



[1876. 



picture of an old Mohammedan officer in the old sepoy 
army. It is a very clever book. I don't know if it would 
interest you, who have the real thing under your eyes, 
as much as it interests us, or I would put it into the 
next box that is sent, 

Windsor, 24M MarcK. 

. . . We have had the most villainous winter, which 
is dying hard, and yielding most unwillingly to such a 
burst of sunshine as we are rejoicing in now. Tids, who 
came home on Wednesday night, is sitting on the steps 
of the greenhouse working at Homer and Philology (he 
says), and even across my desk while I write there is 
a glimmer — nay, a blaze — of sun. And the greenhouse 
is full of hyacinths mixed (alas!) with a little tobacco! 
Don't you see it all ? I wish I could have a photograph 
or a picture or something to give an idea of your sur- 
roundings, your tent and your canal and your dusky 
people : I wish it could be done, but I suppose you will 
very soon be going to the hills now, or at least when 
you get this letter. 

The events since I wrote to you last have been the visits 
of cousin Annie and Mr Ralston. ... Mr Ralston has 
developed into quite a new man. He startled me from 
the first by his jocosity and a new strain of self-import- 
ance. But the " lecture " (!) so-called, which he had come 
on purpose to give to the Eton boys (I think I told you), 
it was a string of most amusing but very absurd stories, 
as funny as you can imagine, and keeping the audience 
in fits of laughter, told with the broadest yet the deepest 
comicality, but as little like a dignified lecturer as you 
can imagine. Dr Balston was in the chair, and he, I 
understand, was considerably shocked, and declared that 
he had never been at a literary society meeting before, 
and that he would not have known that the entertain- 
ment had anything to do with literature had he not been 
told. " Who is your low comedian ? " somebody asked 
Mr Hale. So you see our friend produced a sensation. 
The 1 Chronicle/ however, is most complimentary to him, 



1876.] 



THE CHAMPION OF ' MAGA.' 



257 



and promises him an enthusiastic reception when he 
comes again, and he himself was delighted with the 
cheers and laughter. He sat up talking till past three 
in the morning, and gave me a whole history of his 
feud with the Museum. I am trying now to get Anthony 
Trollope to come down to lecture. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, nth April. 

I have begun Macaulay, and you shall have him in 
the end of the week, if possible. I think the fact of 
the very foolish, bitter, and useless remarks about ' Maga ' 
and Professor Wilson makes it highly expedient that the 
book should be reviewed in a loftier and more generous 
spirit, with one very distinct and dignified notice of the 
equal injustice and bad taste of this reference, which I 
shall try to make as pointed as possible. The book is 
interesting and curious as one of those studies of man- 
kind which are said to be the best employment of man 
(or woman ?). How rich and how poor a life ! 

In great haste (but I thought you would like to know 
whether or not I was at work). 

Windsor, 15M April 
I am sorry to send this [review of Macaulay's Life] 
incomplete, but you shall have the last little bit on 
Tuesday morning if all is well. ... I hope we shall not 
come to blows over it, though it is ticklish ground. I 
think, however, that the Magazine can be nothing if not 
magnanimous in treating such a man, and I do not mind 
if you throw in a bit of Toryism on your own account, 
though I think I am gloriously Tory here and there. 
Whatever we can agree upon, however, will come in the 
proof. Poor Macaulay, his household loss and disappoint- 
ments touch me much. 

Windsor, 210th April. 
... I have not seen the * Edinburgh/ but will get hold 
of it as soon as possible. How very good of Mr Kinglake 
to interest himself about the poor little reputation which, 
alas ! " thae muving things ca'ed weans " have forced me 

R 



258 



LETTERS. 



[1876. 



to be so careless of. Will you tell him how very much 
more I feel gratified and honoured by such kind interest, 
as coming from him, a critic whose personal approval is 
better than vulgar praise ? But no praise will do for me 
what was done for Thackeray, and reason good. I think, 
though, if ever the time comes that I can lie on my oars, 
after the boys are out in the world, or when the time 
comes which there is no doubt about, when I shall be 
out of the world, that I will get a little credit — but not 
much now, there is so much of me ! What a blessing to 
be born with Macaulay's temperament and never spend 
more than one has ! It is the best nurse of reputation. 
But please say to Mr Kinglake all my gratitude for such 
true friendliness, which I feel to the bottom of my heart. 

To Mr F. Wilson. Windsor, 5M May. 

. . . The systematic way in which Mr Trollope grinds 
out his work is very fanny. It must have answered, 
however, for he seems extremely comfortable; keeps a 
homely brougham, rides in the Park, &c. I envy and 
admire, and wonder if daily bread is all I shall ever be 
able to manage, and whether I shall have to go on in the 
same treadmill all my life, — I suppose so. 

My new story begins in the ' Cornhill ■ next month. I 
saw Miss Thackeray and Leslie Stephen for a few minutes 
the other day — she looking very much herself, he looking 
very miserable. I asked them to come here, while their 
things are removed from one house to another. . . . 

God bless you, my dear boy. Good-bye for a week. I 
hope you are not suffering from the hot weather. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, jth June. 

... I was charmed with Mr Kinglake, and extremely 
glad to make his acquaintance. , By the way, I congrat- 
ulate you on your new contributor. Of course you will 
tell fibs about him, and declare the ' Woman- Hater ' 1 

1 The ' Woman- Hater ' was the last, or almost the last, novel written by 
Charles Reade. 



1876.] FOREIGN CLASSICS FOR ENGLISH READERS. 259 



to be by nobody in particular. There is no one I admire 
so much. There is a swing of easy power about him 
which is beyond praise. 

This and several of the following letters refer to the 
Foreign Classics Series, which Mrs Oliphant edited. 

Golf Place, St Andrews, zotk September. 

Thanks for letting me see the letter to Mr Reeve. I 
perfectly agree with what you say : he is not a man to be 
affronted, but neither is his aid of any special importance. 
I think, however, that he might make a sufficiently in- 
teresting volume. 

Mr Collins's list is very like mine — indeed, of course 
every list of the kind must be like every other. Do you 
incline to let him try his hand at Camoens ? People who 
are learned in Portuguese are not common. I have been 
arranging what seemed to me a very feasible succession 
to begin with, if we can keep our men to time. I have 
bound over the Principal to be ready if called upon with 
Pascal. Have you mentioned Rabelais to Colonel Ham- 
ley ? Shall I write to him about it ? You will see that I 
have put myself down for a couple of volumes in the first 
year. This is simply because I can be sure of my own 
punctuality, and of course the arrangement is merely as a 
convenience to settle some order of starting. I shall set 
to work to get my German brushed up when I get home. 
It is not good for much at present. If Mr Lewes will do 
Goethe that will be admirable, and we should secure it as 
soon as we can. The series should be made as interest- 
ing and important as possible at the beginning. Shall I 
draw out a prospectus ? 

By the way, I know Mr Reeve tolerably well, and have 
written two or three papers for him, though I almost 
forget what they were about. 

Windsor, 4M November. 
I enclose you a small story of a ghostly description, 
which pray put in the Magazine if it happens to suit you ; 



260 



LETTERS. 



[1876. 



but if not, send it back to me, as I should like to have it 
published for Christmas. It was called forth by a dis- 
cussion of the Glamis Castle mystery which I was a party 
to the other night, and is intended for a possible solution 
of that, I cannot remember whether there is a Lord 
Gowrie ; if there is, of course the name must be changed. 
I should be pleased if you liked it. 

Colonel Hamley will not reply to me about Voltaire. 
In case he does not do it, as Rabelais seems for the 
moment out of the question, have you any more French- 
reading authors in your pocket to supply this volume, 
as I don't know whether you care for my independent 
researches ? Mr Sime, the " literary editor" of the 1 Globe/ 
a connection of my own whom I mentioned to you, I 
think, wishes to do Lessing ; and as he writes well, judg- 
ing from several interesting articles of his I have seen 
in the * Pall Mall ' and other papers, I am disposed to 
accept: but that of course would not come in the first 
year. Have you heard from Mr Martin? 

I am amused at the novel crusade Mr Reade has 
beguiled you into. I heartily agree with him, but I 
should not have thought you would do so. 

The story mentioned above is called "The Secret 
Chamber." Whatever it did afterwards, it certainly had 
a success when it was read, as Mrs Oliphant's stories 
occasionally were, in the family circle. The reading had 
been begun rather late, and midnight passed as the 
climax was approaching. The reader, her nerves all 
excited and tense, came to the place where the old 
sword in the haunted room suddenly fell with a crash. 
At that very moment outside the closed door of the draw- 
ing-room something fell! — something that crashed and 
shivered! Every one started up, the door was flung 
open, but the long passage outside was dark and silent. 
The servants had gone to bed, and the lights were out. 



A VERY BIG "SWELL." 



26l 



There was nothing to be seen, nothing to be heard. 
What had fallen ? Was it an echo of the ghostly sword 
as it fell that we had heard ? Half an hour later the 
mystery was cleared. The reader of the story, going 
cautiously in the dark towards bed, trod on the broken 
glass of a fallen picture. 

Windsor, 28M November. 

When I heard from you that Mr Martin would not 
undertake Goethe, I asked Mr Kinglake, with whom I 
have been having some correspondence lately, whether he 
thought Mr Hayward would undertake it. He thought 
not, but said he would speak to him about it, without 
committing us in the least. Then he wrote to me that 
he thought Mr Hayward seemed disposed for it, and 
asked all the details as to time of publication, remuner- 
ation, &c, and last night I got the enclosed letter from 
him, which I think it best to submit to you as it stands. 
Of course I say nothing about the money. I am rather 
aspiring myself to make the series an amateur one (in the 
right sense of the word) — books done for the love of the 
subject. Mr Hayward is a very big " swell," and I con- 
fess I should be proud of him. • • • 

Mr Kinglake's hint about writing to Mr Hayward in very 
appreciative terms is amusing. If you don't know him 
personally (as, however, I have no doubt you do), perhaps 
it would be better that I should do this. The necessary 
admiration and enthusiasm might come easier to me than 
to you ! 

N.B. — I am not at all sure that I ever read a word of 
his writings. 

Windsor, 8M December. 
I send you to-day a copy of my book, the ' Makers of 
Florence 9 : you will see a good deal about Dante in it ; 
and pray look at the translation in a footnote beginning 
on page 7, which is a specimen of the translations I am 
doing. The book is too pretty (I don't mean my part of 



262 



LETTERS. 



[1876. 



it) for business purposes, so I hope Mrs Blackwood will 
accept it. I have put her name in it. 

Windsor, 26M December. 
I respond with the most hearty goodwill to your good 
wishes. I trust Mrs Blackwood and you will find the 
years more and more happy as the life of the young 
generation develops and is enriched : after all, it is upon 
them that all our hopes depend as we get past the time 
of personal hope. • . • My boys are very well and all 
that I could wish them, though Cyril disappointed me 
and himself (horribly) by getting only a second class in 
Mods. We felt terribly cast down for a while, but the 
Master of Balliol cheered me up again, which was a 
wonder, as he is not too genial generally on the subject. 



I877-] 



HARRIET MARTINEAU. 



263 



1877. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, %th March. 

I entirely agree with you in respect to Miss Martineau. 
The curious limited folly of her apparent common-sense 
struck me in St Andrews, and I thought it would make 
a good article. The autobiography seems much worse 
than could have been expected. How such a common- 
place mind could have attained the literary position she 
did fills me with amazement. How did she manage it ? 
I can only look and wonder. I will send the paper rather 
late, I fear, but I think it is worth while doing it. 

Granville Hotel, Ramsgate, March. 
. . . Why — how— did Miss Martineau get such a re- 
putation ? There is nothing so puzzling. I wanted to 
have put in a word or two about some curious comments 
of hers on public-school life as illustrated by Tom Brown, 
and the enormous depravities and low vices caused by — 
the boys breakfasting alone, and cooking sausages for 
themselves! which I got in St Andrews, when I first 
contemplated this paper ; but I have not the book, and 
the article, I fear, is already too long. 

Windsor, 19M April. 
I send the concluding chapter of the * Divine Comedy.' 
I am very sorry to have been so long with it, but the 
work has been serious. It has given me a great deal of 
trouble. One's brain needs to be very clear to follow all 
the theological arguments that go on in heaven. One 
hopes it is less doctrinal now up there, or one would cer- 
tainly prefer the sunny hillside low down in Purgatory ! 
There is only a short chapter now on the Prose works 
(with a little about the Canzoniere) to complete the book, 
which is a very good pennyworth, so far as labour goes. 



264 



LETTERS. 



[1877. 



I will slip over the prose as lightly as possible : with a 
bad cold, and a considerable degree of unwellness other- 
wise, and various domestic cares, the Convito, &c, are 
far from easy reading — and this east wind ! . . . 

In June of this year Mrs Oliphant celebrated the 
twenty-fifth anniversary of her connection with ' Maga.* 
Mr John Blackwood was, of course, the guest of the day ; 
but there were many notable and interesting people pre- 
sent, few indeed of whom now survive. 

Windsor, Junt, 

The day I had decided on for my party was the 16th 
[of June], that being Saturday and the most convenient 
day ; but the 19th or 23rd would do equally well. Pray, 
as you will be the special guest, choose which you prefer, 
and let ,m'e know : if you would send me word by return 
of post it would be kind, as I must ask my people, and 
had forgotten how time is running on. 

I propose to hold the solemnity at Magna Charta, a 
charming little house on the banks of the river which a 
friend of mine sometimes lends me. 

From A . W. Kinglake to Mrs Oliphant. 

28 Hyde Park Place, Marble Arch, W., 
June 20, 1877. 

Dear Mrs Oliphant, — Your fete of yesterday was a 
charming one, and for once a fulfilment of what one 
imagined it might be if all should go well. You reigned 
so brightly over your guests that everybody seemed 
pleased. 

And this morning I receive the Dante. I had learnt 
accidentally from Mr Langford that you had kindly 
directed that a copy of the volume should be sent me, 
and am greatly pleased. 

But there is yet another blessing that yesterday 
brought me. When I came back to London last even- 



I877-] 



SOCIETY SMALL-TALK. 



265 



ing, I went to one of my clubs to have some tea, and look 
— with but little hope — for a novel really attractive to me 
after having finished 'Mrs Arthur/ and then — a happy 
surprise, for I had never been prepared for it by any ad- 
vertisement — I found awaiting me ' Csxitk 9 ! As far as 
I have gone I like it immensely. 

With my kind regards to your guest (Miss Blackwood) 
and to your sons — both such nice young fellows — believe 
me, dear Mrs Oliphant, very truly yours, 

A, W. Kinglake. 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Windsor, 20^ July. 

. . . Don't suppose for a moment (I am answering 
your last letter, which perhaps you have forgotten all 
about by this time) that we think, from our experience, 
Anglo-Indians to be bores. Your letters would be inter- 
esting even if everything about you was not so interesting 
as it is at home. I find your letters always you, which is 
the very best thing letters can be. At the same time, I 
can understand the temptation of getting gossipy and 
grumbly among yourselves. But it really is the same 
everywhere. All society is made up of small circles, and 
talks its own special small-talk. I at least have never 
found yet the bigger kind that some people talk grand 
about ; and yours, though it may be flat to you, is piquant 
and strange to us. . . . 

Tids is by way of working tolerably hard. He also 
does a tolerable amount of cricket, and it is very pleasant 
to have him at home. You say I used to say you had no 
energy : I suppose we elder people are inclined to think 
so with all boys. I can only hope Tiddy will take heart 
o' grace as you have done as soon as he gets real work in 
hand, though I don't think (this in my own defence!) 
that I said you were without energy the last year or two 
before you went away. 

Cecco's first " summer examination " is just coming on, 
and I am rather anxious about it. He will be dreadfully 
disappointed if he does not get into sixth form next half, 



266 



LETTERS. 



[1877. 



and that of course depends entirely on the number of 
boys who leave. . . . The children go away next Satur- 
day, the 28th, and we follow a week later ; so that the 
summer, we may calculate, is now about over. And it 
has been, on the whole, a coldish one, though with breaks 
of hot weather. 

To Miss Walker. St Andrews. 

... I am deep in De Quincey, on whom I am doing 
a paper. Please do the proof as soon as you possibly 
can. The boys are very busy, as you may suppose, what 
with work (of which a little does get done), golf, and 
lawn-tennis. Tids especially is much in request, as it 
seems he is really a very good lawn-tennis player. Cecco 
seems going into literature in a funny kind of subterran- 
eous way. He showed me a rather impassioned speech out 
of a tragedy, which he seems to be doing in fragments, 
and I came upon a bit of a story the other day in his 
beautiful handwriting, neither of them bad at all. But 
I fear he is less good at steady study of the plodding 
kind than I supposed. How curiously appearances de- 
ceive. I believe now that he is right in what he has 
always said, that he does less work than Tiddy. He is 
full of fragmentary literary occupation much more than 
Tiddy, but I fear, I fear he does not " plod," that grand 
necessity of scholastic success, any more than his brother, 

St Andrews. 

. . • Did I tell you that the boys were getting up a 
ball — a bachelors' ball (save the mark ! Cecco being one 
of the bachelors). It is to come off to-morrow night, 
and we are all in a state of excitement about it, this 
house being the headquarters, and Cyril the treasurer 
and everything. You will hear all about it from Cecco. 
We have been hearing the Principal preach this morning, 
a fine, eloquent, striking, inconclusive sermon, preached 
with a good deal of emotion. He must take a great deal 
out of himself in preaching. 



1877.] FUTILE ATTEMPTS TO DRAW. 267 

To Mr Frank Wilson. St Andrews, Sept. 25M. 

... I am very glad to have had so many more of 
your letters lately, though sorry to see that you have 
had an attack of fever. ... It could not be hoped that 
you would always escape fever, and I am thankful your 
first attack has not been very serious. I shall be anxious 
till I get your next letter. Is it not a little rash of you 
to take no change this year? or can you not get away 
from your work ? . . . 

This new outbreak in Affghanistan is very alarming. 
Do you know anybody that is in it, or do you hear much 
about it? It is complicating the elections here, which 
adds to the usual excitement on the subject. It was 
expected that Parliament would be dissolved, but now 
it is supposed that it will go on till its full time is over, 
as Government is not anxious to face the constituencies 
after this new misfortune. I am very glad that the 
retrenchments in India won't affect you. I hope they 
may do you good and bring promotion. I should like 
very much to have some photograph of your works. 
Couldn't you make the man do your house and sur- 
roundings? I should so very much like to know your 
scenery, so to speak, and be able to picture you and 
the things and people about you to myself. 

Windsor, 12M October. 
. . . Here we are at home again, and a great contrast it 
is to St Andrews. The trees in the Crescent are growing 
so tall and so thick that there seems no sky at all after 
the great vault that is over the Links, and which every 
year I continue making the most futile attempts to draw. 
" Your hills, mamma," the boys said derisively as we went 
past Leuchars. I wish that you, who can draw, would 
only be as persevering. If you would do a little scratch 
from your window at your various " cholsies " (isn't that 
the word ?) it would be such a pleasure to me, and help 
me to realise your surroundings, which it is so very diffi- 
cult to do,— do, there's a good boy. . . . 



268 



LETTERS. 



[1877. 



I suspect that what you say about having lost or not 
sufficiently used your time at Cooper's Hill is what every 
one feels when formal education is over. But education 
never stops, and perhaps if we did not always feel " how 
much more I might have done," we would be intolerable 
prigs or cease to be human creatures at all. I feel as if I 
were only beginning to get into the heart of work and see 
what may be made of it now, and the mere learning of 
that will have cost, no doubt, on the other side, perhaps 
more than it is worth — limitations and formalities and 
want of spontaneousness. I can perfectly understand your 
interest in mile 10. I have always thought that to makt, 
to bring order and meaning and use out of nothing, must 
be the most delightful sensation in the world. My first 
hero was to have built a lighthouse. • . . 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 16M November. 

. . . This is Cyril's twenty-first birthday, a great family 
event. We are to keep it to-morrow, when he is coming 
home with two nights' leave, graciously granted by the 
Master. How these children spring out of nothing I 
Jack will be following his example in a month or two; 
but Jack has more to come of age for than my poor Tids, 
who is "lord of his presence and no land beside." He is 
a very good sweet-hearted boy, and very tender to me, 
but I can't help feeling doubtful whether he has enough 
of the sterner stuff in him to get success in those thorny 
ways of law (not to say life) which he is bound for. I am 
going to enter him directly at the Inner Temple. If all 
these boys of ours had but ten thousand a -year what 
delightful fellows they would be! I fear that is what 
our modern education trains them for, more than any- 
thing else. 

To F. R. Oliphant (when at Oxford for his matriculation). 

Windsor, November 24. 
My dearest Cecco, — You can't think how miserable 
and empty the house looks, and how hard it is to realise 



i«7M 



A GREAT FAMILY EVENT. 



269 



that you are not coming in late or early. I don't at all 
like this first experiment in loneliness. When you are 
both at Oxford I shall either have to go there too or hang 
myself, which latter experiment would be uncomfortable. 
I hope I may hear from you to-morrow how you have got 
on these two days. I am anxious to know all about it, 
and I hope you will be more explicit in your descriptions 
than Tids is; indeed, I trust you will adopt rather the 
Frankian than the Tiddy-ish style of literature, for 
though a clever and entertaining lettefr is very nice, it is 
better to know really what you are about day by day, 
respecting which Mr Tids leaves one much in the 
dark. I hope you have been getting a little pleasure 
out of your first flight from home as well as doing 
well in the examination. Was the Master gracious 
to you? 

If you have not written to-day be sure you do so to- 
morrow, and make Tiddy also do so. I want to hear all 
about you both to keep me going, which otherwise 
would be dismal work. I don't know that anything 
has been going on since you went away, except the 
dinner-party at the Ritchies' which I told Tids about. 
Captain Maurice, who is a neighbour of ours now in 
Park Street, and who went with us, is rather an ac- 
quisition. He is the author of one of the clever mili- 
tary essays, the one (if you remember the story) that 
was pitched in at Colonel Hamley's door (he being the 
judge) just as the clock was striking the very limits of 
the hour allowed for "showing up" (a la Tiddy), and 
which got the first prize. 

Mr Tarver is going to give a reading at St Stephen's 
on Monday evening, Hamlet and the Gravediggers, Mr 
Smith of Eton being Hamlet ! — very like Hamlet, indeed, 
Mr Tarver thinks. 

I wonder what you two will do with yourselves to-mor- 
row. I trust it will not be a hopeless day like this. God 
bless you, my dearest boy, and my Tids too. Be sure you 
both write. — Your loving mother, M. O. W. O. 



270 



LETTERS. 



[1877 



The next letter is addressed to Mrs Richmond Ritchie, 
who had only very recently ceased to be Miss Thackeray. 

To Mrs Richmond Ritchie. 14M December. 

Here is your autograph, my dear Annie. I have never 
done such a thing for anybody before, but I am delighted 
to have a word from you (even though you have so cun- 
ningly disguised your new initials that I protest I don't 
know what the last one is !) and to hear something about 
you. I have been gleaning what scraps of information I 
could from the dear people at Brock Hill, who, alas ! are 
at Brock Hill no longer. My holidays have begun — that 
is, I have got Cyril home, and Cecco's labours will soon 
be over, and that, you know, is my special argument for 
happiness. We must manage to get up to town early in 
the year, and get a glimpse of you among other pleasant 
things. I am glad the darkest of the dark winter days is 
over for you, dear, and that you have now support and 
solace by your side to counteract all the heaviness of 
recollection. 

The new will never quite push out the old, but happi- 
ness is certainly the one elixir of life. 

We have been having Mr Ruskin here again havering 
in his usual celestial way, and we are planning theatricals 
with Mrs Cornish in the part of Portia, which I think is 
altogether suitable to her. Won't you come and see 
her ? I am busy as usual spinning continual webs that 
never come to much. I am very glad to see that you 
have begun again. I always feel you to be of the party 
with your pretty Felicias, and keep looking for you round 
the corner of every sentence. 

God bless you, my dear, in all ways. I suppose I may, 
notwithstanding his dignified position as the head of a 
house, send my love to Richmond. 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Windsor, 28/* December. 

I have not written to you now for two or three mails, 
and here we are in the midst of the holidays, Christmas 



I877-] 



THE DESIRE FOR LIFE. 



271 



over, and the end of the year close at hand. I have been 
a little gloomy in myself, thinking how noiselessly and 
certainly these passing years bring one towards the end ; 
but I need not trouble you with these fancies, which I 
hope will not come to anything except passing clouds, 
which at my age are rather desirable than otherwise, for 
it does not seem a good thing to get too much into the 
habit of living, as one is tempted to do, more as one gets 
old than when one is young. Christmas will be entirely 
out of everybody's thoughts and 1878 well begun before 
you get this, so I need not say very much about it, but 
wish you a very happy year, my dear boy, and a good 
one. . • . 

What a comfort, my dear Frank, that you have found 
the career that suits you, and are doing well in it and 
liking it. Nothing gives me so much consolation. 



272 



LETTERS. 



[1878. 



1878, 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Windsor, 18M January. 

. . . Last week we were in London, which was the 
cause of failure in writing then, where we have spent a 
week. It is the time of theatres, as you know, and we 
went at that branch of pleasuring systematically, going to 
four plays, one the most idiotic performance I ever saw, 
the latter part being a burlesque of Faust intended to be 
funny, at which we all assisted with solemn countenances. 
I never was more ashamed of myself than I was of spend- 
ing several hours of time and a good deal of money upon 
such miserable conventional fooling. The other plays 
were better; one a posthumous production of Lord 
Lytton's, very high-flown and magnificent. It was, how- 
ever, played to an empty house, which was very dismal, 
and made one very compassionate of the actors. (It is 
an odd proceeding on my part to plunge into plays at 
once, before I tell you anything else 1) Our stay in town, 
however, was distinguished this time by a perfectly novel 
feature. I told you of an old Mrs Stewart, a wonderful 
old lady of seventy-four, who has twice paid us a visit 
here. We got lodgings through her means close to her 
house, and she had a succession of luncheon-parties for 
my gratification and exhibition. The lionising process, 
you know, is not one that I encourage. I saw, however, 
a good many people, and I suppose even where there is 
the least possible enjoyment in it that is more or less an 
advantage. . . . 

Dr Bridge gave us a rather peculiar performance at the 
Abbey one of the evenings we were in town. We dined 
with him at his quaint little house in the cloisters, and 
after dinner went into the choir, while he played to us. 
The Abbey was all dark except the light in the organ-loft 
and a solitary lantern, and the effect was very fine. He 



' MARMORNE.' 



273 



played an old "Ave Maria," evidently intended for a 
Litany with responses, and made great use of the stop 
which is called the vox humana. It was most dramatic and 
picturesque, the organ sounding exactly like the singing 
of monks far off in an unseen chapel. He took us after- 
wards about the church with a lantern ; and to look down 
from a high chantry, down the long nave, with only the 
light from the organ-loft in the centre to show it, was 
very wonderful. 

Now we are back again at home, to my great satisfac- 
tion. I know nothing more fatiguing than what is called 
pleasure, and longed for my work. 

To Mr Blackwood. WINDSOR, 27M January. 

... I think the Principal's little book admirable. 
The Goethe is very good, but I have taken the liberty to 
ask Mr Hayward (with trembling) to remember that we 
address a public which is not expected to understand 
allusions, but must have everything explained to it. He 
sent me, the other day, that potent, grave, and reverend 
signior, a little volume of society verses, the lightest of 
airy trifles, compliments, and gallantries. It took away 
my breath. 

I should like very much to have 1 Marmorne,' please. 
Mr Pigott, the licenser of plays, was speaking to me about 
it the other day with the greatest enthusiasm. He says 
he has not seen anything so pretty for a long time, and 
asked me anxiously who was the author. I promised to 
ask you, though I told him I did not hope to get any 
information from you! 

To Mr W. Blackwood. Windsor, 14M April 

... I hope to be able to get the ' Moltere ' done, but 
I am at present kept back from everything and kept in 
great anxiety by the illness of Cecco, who has got gastric 
fever, and who fully occupies all my time and thoughts. 
It is not as yet a very severe case, the doctor assures me ; 
but it is always a very anxious business, and as I am 

s 



274 



LETTERS. 



[1878. 



painfully anxious by nature, you may imagine that my 
mind is not very free for work. He was taken ill on the 
4th, on the day before the beginning of an examination 
for which, poor boy, he had been working so hard, but he 
has been too ill to feel this disappointment. Would you 
tell your aunt Isabella this when you see her ? I ought 
to have written to her, but cannot. 

Cecco had been for some months working hard for the 
Newcastle Scholarship, to be even in the "select" for 
which is one of the greatest honours attainable by an 
Etonian. The night before the examination day he came 
home late from his tutor's, where he had been doing some 
final work in preparation. He was ill, but declared he 
would be all right next day. In the morning, however, 
the fever had declared itself, and for the following thirteen 
days he was very ill. Through this time and the early 
days of convalescence his mother nursed him unremit- 
tingly, leaving him only for the two hours after midnight, 
when she lay down, allowing " cousin Annie " to take her 
place. And she worked as well as nursed ! 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 17M April. 

I am very happy to tell you that Cecco is now on the 
way to recovery, the fever having subsided on Thursday 
— in thirteen days instead of the three, four, or even six 
weeks with which we were threatened. The relief, I need 
not say, is unspeakable. I shall hope to be able to get 
him away to the seaside in a week or ten days. After 
that, if he recovers his strength, we may or may not cross 
the Channel ; in any case I will send you a paper for the 
June number. I should like to go to Paris on account of 
the ' Moltere ' as much as anything else, and if I send you 
anything on the subject of the Exhibition (I hate exhibi- 
tions), it will be more about the theatres and Paris in 
general than the Thing itself. 



1878O AN OUTBURST OF ENTHUSIASM. 275 



Chez Af. Develie, pris du Casino Rosendael, 

DUNKERQUE, I4M August. 

. . • We have got settled down in the sand here, and 
live roughly in a way which we should think very dis- 
agreeable indeed at home. I confess I don't much 
admire it here, but nothing better can be had. It is a 
very fine sea, and at the present moment much ruffled 
and out of temper, and looking its best in consequence. 

I have just had a little run in Bruges and Ghent. 
How delightful they are! One forgets the stateliness 
and old-world grace of them, so homely and kindly too. 
Please tell Mrs Blackwood that I was tempted and fell 
in the way of lace— old lace — and if she ever goes to the 
B6guinage, when they show her the commonplace pro- 
ductions of to-day, let her ask for a certain box of old 
lace which is kept in reserve. I wish I had not seen it, 
but she ought to see it. There is nothing so costly as 
bargains, and there are such bargains to be had I Pardon 
an outburst of enthusiasm. 

Windsor, yd October. 

... I am planning to go to Oxford for six months or 
so in January if I can let my house here, which I hope 
to do. Cyril and Cecco will both be at Balliol, and I 
see no good in staying here when both the bits of my 
heart will be in another place. 

I have been thinking of preparing the " Beleaguered 
City " in two parts, as it wants carrying out, leaving the 
supernatural portion for the January number. I almost 
fear, however, that you will not care for another story, 
now that you have commenced the "New Ordeal M (how 
capital it is !). Will you kindly tell me about this, 
whether you would have room for it or not ? as it seems 
to be specially suitable to the time of the year. 

Windsor, 9M October. 
... I think very highly of Daudet as a novelist, but I 
know nothing of him personally. Unfortunately for me, 
neither did I of Balzac, which has made Mr Reeve gum 



276 



LETTERS. 



[1878. 



on a reminiscence of his to a paper of mine (which you 
would not have), and which I suppose will be in the 
* Edinburgh ' next number — to my great discomfiture. 

Windsor, 4M December. 

I am sending you, after all, the " Beleaguered City." 
It is not quite enough for a volume, and perhaps it is too 
much for two numbers of the Magazine. As I think, 
however, that it is worth something, I send it to you. If 
you like it for the Magazine, it might come in very well 
for the "Tales" afterwards. It is very much enlarged 
and altered, you will perceive. I have wasted a good 
deal of time upon it, which is foolish, but the subject 
struck my fancy. 

The Principal [Tulloch] preached a noble sermon in 
Westminster on Saturday. I never heard anything 
finer. The place was crowded, a great many people 
standing; and the nave of the Abbey lighted up and 
filled with people, with all the misty distances of the 
aisles, and mystery of the lofty roof overhead, is a sight 
to see. The Principal had the sense, however, to leave 
the mist and mystery in the beautiful arches above him, 
and himself struck the most clear note of Christian sen- 
timent and faith which I have almost ever heard from 
him. I was considerably nervous about the business 
altogether, not to say highly antagonistic, but nothing 
could have been finer. 



CASAUBON. 



277 



1879. 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Crick Road, Oxford, 20th Feb. 1 

... I came here more than a fortnight ago. I say I, 
for the boys had gone before me. It was excessively 
cold at the time, the end of the frost, and since it has 
been very wet and muddy. Unfortunately the house is 
a good way out of the centre of Oxford, as far off as 
Windsor is from Eton, which is much against us. On 
the other hand, it is pleasantly situated and among a 
great many pleasant people. Many of the great persons 
of Oxford have already called on me, and I have been 
asked to several solemn dinners, to one of which I am 
going to-night and to another to-morrow. The people 
are all very civil, but I am sometimes doubtful whether 
I have been wise in coming. Cecco seems to have begun 
very well indeed. It is difficult to realise him as a Balliol 
man, but such he is, and has taken to smoking, which 
I never thought he would do, and talks about "other 
men 99 as if he had not been the baby a very little while 
ago. He has a good many friends, and seems to be quite 
cheery and happy, which is a great satisfaction to me, for 
I was always a little nervous about his start. . . . 

Since I wrote the above I have been out to a dinner- 
party where all the people were profoundly learned and 
clever ; the chief guest (after myself, in whose honour the 
party was given) being the rector of Lincoln, a man who 
is supposed to be the Casaubon of ' Middlemarch * — at 
least I believe his wife considers herself the model of 
Dorothea. He is a curious wizened little man, but a 
great light, I believe. He wrote a life of the great scholar 
Isaac Casaubon, which I reviewed some years ago, but 
this of course the good man does not know. I am going 
out again to dinner to-night. We leave here in about a 
month, and will return somewhere about the 18th of April. 



278 



LETTERS. 



[1879. 



To Mr Blackwood. 4 Crick Road, Oxford, Feb. 28. 

I ought to have written last month to thank you and 
your able contributor for the flattering mention made of 
me in the article on Magazines, but the coming here 
complicated my other businesses, and I did not even 
read the article till somewhat late in the month. I am 
now again overwhelmed by Mr Shand's (is it Mr Shand ?) 
civilities in the present number. It is very kind of him, 
and of you, to whose good word I am sure I am indebted 
for so honourable a place. My best thanks to both. It 
is very pleasant, especially when one's life has not been 
exempt from snubs, to have so kind and generous a 
recognition of one's efforts — not to say that it is always 
a feather in one's cap to appear as a member of that 
goodly fellowship, that noble army, which fights under 
the banners of ' Maga.' 

Your contributor seems to know various secrets of the 
craft which I have not found out. I suppose Mr Trollope 
and Mr Reade are deeply learned in all those by-ways, 
colonial and otherwise, which a poor woman out of the 
way never hears of. I have had various colonial applica- 
tions made to me, but they never came to anything. 

I have been thinking lately of asking you whether you 
would mind introducing me to Lord Salisbury with the 
view of asking him for a Foreign Oflice nomination for 
one of my boys. As they are now both in the last stage of 
their education, and Tids will be done with his in June, 
the question grows more and more important. The Bar 
of course is the finest career of all when successful, and if 
Tids takes a very good degree it will encourage me to 
screw myself up for barrister's fees, and the legal educa- 
tion which has yet to come ; but it is a horribly long pro- 
cess, and as there are two of them to provide for I should 
be very glad to have a public oflice nomination to fall 
back upon. Would this be asking too much of you? 
There seems no chance of getting at a Minister without 
introductions. Lord Salisbury's sons were in Mr Marin- 
din's house along with my boys, and I suppose he will 



I879-] 



OXFORD. 



279 



know my name, I do not care to ask a mere society 
acquaintance for such an introduction, but no doubt 
I could get it, if you don't care to do it. 

To Mr Blackwood. Oxford, 16M March. 

... I am glad you like the " Hamlet " paper, proof of 
which shall be returned directly. I will say a word or 
two about Irving's unquestionable power over his audience. 
There is nothing so strange as popular success. I begin 
to think that it is only when one gives oneself credit for 
doing a thing with great difficulty and labour that one 
gets due credit with the public, and that what is appa- 
rently done with ease is never so impressive, even where 
it may be really better. 

I have been seeing a great many notabilities here, with- 
out, I am afraid, being very much impressed by them. 
Almost everybody who is anybody has called, I think; 
but intellectualism, like every other ism, is monotonous, 
and the timidity and mutual alarm of the younger poten- 
tates strikes me a good deal. They are so muth afraid 
of committing themselves or risking anything that may 
be found wanting in any minutiae of correctness. Scholar- 
ship is a sort of poison tree, and kills everything. 

To Mr Frank Wilson. Oxford, 20M March. 

. . . The term at Oxford is just finishing, and we go 
home next week. I can't say that I have much enjoyed 
being here. There has been a good deal of bad weather, 
and in bad weather Oxford is depressing to the last 
degree. Now spring is beginning very unwillingly with 
many relapses into winter, but I hope next term will be 
pleasant. . . . Everybody at Oxford of any importance, 
or almost everybody, has called on me, and I have been 
asked to a good many dinner-parties, to which I have 
gone resignedly. My last was at the Max Mttllers to meet 
our old friend Mr Ralston, whom you will remember. 
He came here to tell stories, which has become his 
speciality. He does it* very well, and is very amusing. 



28o 



LETTERS. 



I1879. 



He had a large audience in a sort of theatre connected 
with the Museum here — heaps of children, whose atten- 
tion and awe and amusement were very funny and a very 
pretty sight. He is as long and as thin as ever; but 
though he is always having bad illnesses, he looks much 
better than he used to do. . . . 

Cecco gave us a luncheon to-day at Balliol. Cecco 
as a man continues to be a constant wonder and 
amusement to me. His set is entirely distinct from 
Tiddy's. 

To Miss Blackwood. Windsor, iirt April 

. . . We came home about a fortnight ago, and in a 
week more will be back in Oxford if all is well, the 
vacation being so short. My stay there last term was 
both pleasant and unpleasant : the weather was simply 
horrible, and of all abominable places in bad weather 
Oxford is one of the worst. Besides, our house was a 
good way from the centre, in a sort of suburb, full indeed 
of very notable persons and Dons of all descriptions, 
male and female, but not otherwise attractive. I reserve 
my opinion as to the attractiveness of the said Dons. A 
great many people called on me, and I had a sprinkling 
of dinner-parties of the most superior description; in 
short, everybody was very kind, and I got a great deal 
of attention. I rather think I was set up as the proper 
novelist in opposition to Miss Broughton, who has gone 
to live at Oxford and has much fluttered the dove-cotes, 
though I don't exactly know how. Cecco was all the 
more comfortable in his beginning from having his home 
at hand, and has got thoroughly into the Oxford life, 
which is a great comfort to me, and I think Tids' work 
too was all the better for his mother's presence. The 
latter personage has his final examinations next term, 
which is a very anxious business. They all seem to 
expect him to do well. He is just now at Malvern on 
a visit to the Master of Balliol, who seems to have a 
very peculiar opinion of the meaning of the word holiday. 



I879-] 



JOHN BLACKWOOD. 



He and his guests work all day with brief intervals for 
meals and walks. Tids regarded the prospect of this 
visit before he went with rueful gratification, but he does 
not seem to dislike it, being there, and I hope it will 
have done him good. Mr Jowett has been on the whole 
very kind. . . . 

I am quite unsettled about my summer arrangements. 
I am trying very hard to let my house for six months 
from now till October, but with no success as yet. . . . 
If I don't succeed in getting a tenant, which is most 
probable, I should be very glad to see you here in July, 
but I am all uncertain. Education is a fearsome busi- 
ness. Two young men at Oxford cannot, so far as I 
can see, cost less than five hundred a-year; and even 
when Tids takes his degree, there are his law studies 
to come on. All the other young men seem to have 
to go on studying, one here, one there, and Heaven 
knows when their profitable work is to begin ! It is 
rather appalling for a person in my position. However, 
it is to be hoped that I shall be able to hold out for a 
few years longer and pull them both through, though 
sometimes my heart fails me a little. 

In the autumn of this year Mrs Oliphant lost her 
faithful and warmly valued friend Mr John Blackwood. 
He had been for a considerable time in failing health, 
and died at his house, Strathtyrum, near St Andrews, 
at the end of October 1879. 

Oxford, yd Nov. 
My dear Isabella, — So it is all over — all your anxiety 
and trouble, and dear John's suffering and patience. I 
felt that you were prepared for it, and that, notwithstand- 
ing the hope to which you clung, this was all that was to 
be looked for. What can we say but thank God that for 
him at least it is all over ? We none of us can look for- 
ward to that passage with less than some pang of fear as 
to how we shall get through, and he has passed it safely 



282 



LETTERS. 



[1879. 



and got over upon the other side. Amen. And thank 
God for him. . . . 

Dear Isabella, I know you will be heart-broken. I 
wish I had been with you, but you will have many round 
you. Many a sad thought of the others who are gone 
will be passing through your mind. I think I know how 
you will be feeling, perhaps better than most people, and 
now Edinburgh will be a desert to you indeed. 

I was away from home last night, and therefore have 
had no letters. I feel sure I will find something from 
you when I return, and then I will write to you again. 
In the meantime, dear Isabella, God be with you ! Try 
to take what comfort you can in the thought that he at 
least, dear John — I can't call him anything else this sad 
day — is no longer in any pain or trouble. — With love 
from the boys, and the tenderest sympathy, affectionately 
yours. 

November 4. 

I have just got your letter. Very hurriedly I wrote to 
you yesterday, and was interrupted at the conclusion and 
obliged to end when I had much to say. I wish so much 
you had added the one word " Come " to your telegram. 
I would so gladly have gone to you ; but knowing how 
deep your feeling would be, I could not convince myself 
that you would like any one with you but your very own, 
otherwise it would have been a comfort to me to be 
there. The flowers, a very beautiful wreath, were sent 
off on Saturday, directed 11 Charlotte Square. I hope 
they did reach in time ; if not, and they still come, may 
they be laid upon the grave? I shall be sadly disap- 
pointed if nothing of me, not even my wreath, was there. 
I told you we had a little service in St Stephen's at two 
o'clock, and followed him in spirit with prayers for you 
all to that last resting-place. How grieved I am that I 
was not bold enough to go to you at once. I do not like 
to ask now what you are going to do. Remember that 
you will always be welcome here. . . . 

I am glad to think that dear John Blackwood was laid 



X879-] 



SUSPENSE. 



283 



to his rest by his own chosen friends. Every one of us, 
present and absent, feel what we have lost in him. 
Thinking about my book on Cervantes the other day, 
I felt suddenly as if I had come to a dead stop. Who 
is there now for whose opinion one will care as one did 
for his? 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, December 8. 

I am most grieved to be so negligent. For the last 
fortnight I have been, first in the most terrible anxiety 
and then in the deepest grief for my dear boy Frank 
Wilson, my nephew whom I brought up, and who died in 
India now five weeks ago of typhoid fever. I had trained 
him with pain and trouble, and sent him out to India 
with every hope and blessing four years ago, and here is 
the end, so far as this sad world is concerned. We were 
for a week waiting an answer to a telegram which never 
came — in an anxiety I cannot describe, and which ended 
on the 29th in an official announcement of his death. 

This is my only excuse for the neglect. The proofs 
came, I suppose, in the midst of this terrible suspense. I 
will get them off as soon as I possibly can. 

To Mrs Craik. Windsor, Christmas Eve. 

It is very kind of you to write to me. I have had a 
long spell of peace and quiet, all well with my children, 
which is the one thing that matters after all. And of all the 
family my boy Frank was the one I was most secure about 
and had least anxiety for. All seemed so well with him, 
he was so robust and vigorous, nothing wrong about him 
either real or fanciful. And now in a moment all is over 
— for this world. It is the most inscrutable blow. Thank 
you most warmly for your sympathy. It is good to have 
an old friend to think of one in one's trouble. We have 
seen little of each other for many years, but we will not 
forget how long it is since we first joined hands, young 
and fresh to life. God keep your doors, dear friend, 
from the shadow that has so often darkened mine, and 



284 



LETTERS. 



[1879- 



give you many happy years with those you love. I have 
my three orphan nieces, now deprived of the last prop 
that absolutely belonged to them, under my roof this 
Christmas. The children, thank God, always make shift 
to be happy, by times at least, even in the midst of 
trouble, but you will give a pitying thought I am sure to 
these three poor girls. 

My best and warmest wishes for yourself, Mr Craik, 
and your child, and with love and thanks, believe me. 

To Mr W. Blackwood. Windsor, Christmas Eve. 

I had not the heart to enter upon business matters 
when I saw you, the shadow of death was so much 
about us, and my own heart so full of anxiety. . . . 

After all this long array of business it seems out of 
place to return to private friendship and good wishes. 
But at the same time these are never out of place, and I 
hope that under your reign, as under that of dear and 
kind John Blackwood, private and old friendship will 
always continue to sweeten our business transactions. 
Will you give your mother and sisters my kindest good 
wishes and greetings ? — " Merry Christmas " is out of my 
way this dark and heavy year, but I wish you every 
blessing and prosperity. 



i88o.] 



A TIME OF PEACE. 



285 



1880. 



Mrs Oliphant's Autobiography was broken off — as a 
connected narrative — at about the time when Cyril left 
Oxford. That he should have taken only a second-class 
was a disappointment to her, but yet, as she herself says, 
in no way a disgrace, and she was very hopeful of his 
future. He was to live at home and read for the Bar. 
Cecco had apparently taken to Oxford life with a certain 
amount of enjoyment. He was naturally a student, 
though perhaps not after the academic model, and there 
was no occasion for anxiety about him. A great grief 
fell on the household in the autumn of 1879, when Frank 
Wilson, the nephew whom Mrs Oliphant had educated 
with her own sons, died in India. He had been always 
a most satisfactory and delightful young fellow, full of 
talent and energy, and succeeding in whatever he under- 
took, so that the dreadful news of his death after only 
a few days of fever seemed almost incredible. Except 
for this sorrow and the void left by the loss of her old 
and faithful friend Mr John Blackwood, the time was 
one of peace, and the cheerful house at Windsor was 
brightened as usual by the comings and goings of visitors. 
Cyril went to town to work in the chambers of a bar- 
rister, and when he was at home his mother tried to 
keep him to his books, much as she had done when 



286 



LETTERS. 



[188a 



he was a very little boy, but with less success. Still 
she was happy in having him at home, and bore the 
tremendous burden of her own work with a light heart. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 17M May, 

I want to publish an article called " School and Col- 
lege," with some special reference to the recent rows 
at Oxford. Will you have it ? I think it might be in- 
teresting, as it will treat practically of Eton and Oxford. 
It could even be ready for June if you considered the 
appropriateness to the moment of consequence enough 
to put it into your programme at this late period, 
which I don't suppose likely. If, however, it should 
by chance strike your fancy, would you kindly tele- 
graph to me at once? If not, let me know as soon 
as it is convenient if you would be disposed to put it 
in in July. I prefer to have it appear in 'Blackwood* 
if possible, and must beg you to keep it a complete 
secret anyhow. 

To Mr Craik. Lowick Rectory, Thrapston, 25M Aug. 

. . . Did you happen to see a story of mine called 
" A Beleaguered City " which was published last Christ- 
mas in the 'New Quarterly Magazine'? It is a story 
which I like — a thing that does not always happen with 
my own productions — and I should like to republish it. 
It would make, I think, only a very small volume, but I 
might add a short new story of a similar description 
to make up. Would you care to undertake the repub- 
lication ? I have a fancy of making a kind of Christmas 
present of it to my unknown friends. I should like it 
to come out exactly at Christmas, and to be published 
quite cheaply, as an experiment. Please let me know 
what you think. I fancy it would interest you. 

We are pausing here in a sort of happy island of 
absolute tranquillity and leisure amid all the commotions 



i88a] 



A RARE EVENT. 



287 



of the world, a calm country parsonage, on our way to 
Scotland. Then I am going to the other end of the 
moral scale, to the Potteries, on Wednesday. We hope 
to be in Golf Place, St Andrews, this day week, and 
perhaps you will reply to this there. 

At the end of this summer Mrs Oliphant did what 
she could very rarely be persuaded to do — she paid one 
or two visits. The first was to Mr and Mrs Lucas Col- 
lins at Lowick Rectory; and while there she heard a 
legendary story of the neighbouring old house of the 
Sackvilles which by -and -by shaped itself in her mind 
into "The Lady's Walk." It is curious how constantly 
some real scene or incident gave birth to one of her 
stories, and yet how very rarely any real person appears 
on her pages. People often thought they found their 
own portraits in her books, an imagination which only 
goes to show how very little we know ourselves or how 
others see us. From Lowick Mrs Oliphant went on with 
her sons to visit Mr Woodall, M.P., at Burslem. She 
was much interested in the work of the Potteries— the 
" throwers " with their immemorial " potter's wheel " 
especially; but what makes this visit really remarkable 
in her life is the fact that for a whole week she laid 
aside her work ! Never before, and never afterwards 
until the illnesses of her last year forced it upon her, 
did she take such a spell of idleness, and she gave her- 
self up to the enjoyment of it with the zest that belongs 
to novelty. 

From Staffordshire she went to Wales, and spent 
two or three weeks at Barmouth. The following letter 
refers to the great anxiety felt with regard to the fate 



288 



LETTERS. 



[iSSo. 



of George Blackwood, brother of the Editor, and son of 
her first friend in the family, Major Blackwood. 

To Mr W. Blackwood. Barmouth, Scptr. 9. 

I send you now the final proofs of ' Cervantes.* I am 
very glad it is not too long. 

I have been looking to see if any further news had 
come — with much anxiety. I can most truly enter into 
the long and painful endurance of your suspense, and I 
feel most deeply for you personally with so much work 
and so many anxieties on your head. I know well how 
every care is doubled by anxiety and grief. 

The following letters explain themselves. The busi- 
ness caused Mrs Oliphant the most intense annoyance, 
and destroyed the pleasure of her short residence in 
town. 

14 Victoria Square, S.W., Octr. 4. 

... I am greatly annoyed just now about a most 
arbitrary and unjustifiable proceeding on the part of the 
proprietors of the ' Graphic/ for whom I wrote a Life of 
the Queen some time ago. It was written exclusively for 
the paper, and no idea of any further use was in my 
mind. I was horrified the other day to see it advertised 
in book form by Messrs Low. I immediately remon- 
strated, but was met by a copy of my receipt, in which 
I had, it appears, given the "entire copyright " to the 
' Graphic.' I suppose I had never read the receipt at 
all when I signed it, and certainly no idea of republica- 
tion had ever been suggested. I don't know what may 
come of it. I have asked Sir James Stephen to give me 
his opinion, which perhaps, as he is a judge, he may not 
like to do, but I shall certainly take legal advice upon the 
subject. I hope you will take my part in the matter. 
The thing was written with the idea of being a mere 



1 88a] 



A LIFE OF THE QUEEN. 



289 



accompaniment to very good illustrations — in which point 
the 'Graphic' people broke their contract with me, to 
begin with — and is quite unfit to be published as a book. 
I am unspeakably annoyed about it, all the more that it 
was not even a profitable bit of work. 

14 Victoria Square, S.W., 22nd October, 

. . • I am in a great fright about the law business. I 
hoped the solicitor, who is a very moderate and sober 
person, and was greatly against proceeding to extrem- 
ities, would have managed a compromise. This is still 
possible, but only by a sacrifice on my part — buying back 
the copyright, which I never had the slightest intention 
of selling. I have been entrapped by a supplementary 
receipt, which I suppose I signed without reading it. I 
am in great trouble about it. Harper's new proceeding 
is indefensible, I think, considering the line they have 
taken in the copyright question. I should like to write 
an article upon their circular which was sent to authors 
— I don't know if you ever saw it — saying that they 
were most anxious to favour us, but were determined to 
prevent English publishers from flooding the American 
market, which was their reason for standing out against 
our improved copyright. 

14 Victoria Square, S.W., Nov, 3. 

... I have been obliged to pay the 1 Graphic ' people 
thirty pounds to redeem the Queen's Life. I hear that 
some friends of mine are trying to represent that it is a 
shabby proceeding to take money from me, with some 
hopes of getting it back. 

In the midst of her own troubles and anxieties she was 
never deaf to an appeal for help. The following refers to 
a piece of work which was her present to a less successful 
literary woman — a piece of work done too while her son 

T 



290 



LETTERS. 



[188a 



Cecco was ill with typhoid fever and being nursed de- 
votedly by her. His illness was, it is true, of a mild type, 
but she could never be less than acutely anxious. 

To Mrs Richmond Ritchie. 14 Victoria Square. 

Dearest Annie, — Mrs Craik writes to say that her 
name may go along with ours, and that she will send 
something if I can tell her the last possible day, as she 
is going to France to-day, and has nothing by her. Will 
you find out, dear, from Mrs Riddell, what time she must 
have the things ? (It sounds like things for the wash !) 
I have done part of mine. 

What dreary wretched weather ! one needs to be 
happy at home to make it bearable at all. . . . 

I fear my story for Mrs Riddell will run to not less 
than 20 pages. I cannot be brief, but she will not mind, 
and perhaps it will save her a little work. I have written 
to Laurence Oliphant. 

To Mrs Craik. 14 Victoria Square, 24/k Afrv. 

I know nothing more of Mrs Riddell than her address. 
She wrote to me thanking me for the story I sent her, 
and I answered her letter, begging her to send me her 
advertisement for her Christmas number, that I might 
get it put into the 4 Spectator/ which I thought would 
help it on a little. . . . 

I have just been explaining sundry delays to Mr Craik 
by telling him about my Cecco's illness. He had been 
very queer and unwell some time, and on calling in the 
doctor at last a day or two after I saw Mr Craik, the boy 
was pronounced to have been struggling with an attack 
of typhoid for some time. It has turned out quite a mild 
case, and he is now getting better ; but for a little while 
I was very anxious, and have been kept in constant 
attendance upon him all this time. The very name of 



i88a] THE NECESSITY OF PERPETUAL WRITING. 2QI 



course brings one's heart to one's mouth. The grievous 
thing is that he was just going in for " Mods," which was 
of the utmost importance to him, and for which he had 
been working hard. Alas ! the examination began yester- 
day, and here he is in bed tearing his hair. 

The very same thing happened to him once at Eton. 

I am very sorry to think I shall not see you, but hope 
you will have less shutting up this winter than you antici- 
pate. Are you not tempted in such a case to run away 
to the south ? After a month or two in London I prize 
the sunshine more than ever. 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, 24M December. 

I don't know whether the * Beleaguered City * is to be 
out immediately or not, but when it comes, I should like 
to have a liberal supply of copies, for which I must be 
charged if I ask too many. I have wanted to make a 
kind of present of it to my unknown friends, as you will 
see by the dedication, and there are a great many known 
friends to whom, as about the best I can do, I want to 
give the book itself. 

I wonder if you, who are in the world and hear of 
everything that is going on, think it at all possible that 
I could get something to do of a permanent character, 
which would relieve me a little from the necessity of 
perpetual writing. I don't mean to say that I am tired 
of writing or that it exhausts me, or that I don't like it 
better than any other occupation, for these assertions 
would not be true. But as I am growing old I have 
more and more desire for a regular quarter day, a regular 
occupation, and so much money certainly coming in. 
. . . This is where men have such a huge advantage over 
us, that they have generally something besides their 
writing to fall back upon for mere bread and butter. I 
think if I had enough of steady income to justify me in 
getting a small house in town, I should be thankful — but 



292 



LETTERS. 



at least for the steady income I should be thankful 
anyhow. . . • 

Oh, what a sad Christmas! — everybody mourning, 
everybody fearing. I know two families who have lost 
sons at this miserable Cabul. I take a little comfort 
in thinking that my boy died in bringing good and 
comfort to the district where he was in India and not 
blood, 

I am going to write a word for Christmas to your dear 
kind wife. This will wait you at Bedford Street till 
you go back to business again. In the meantime may 
every good thing attend you at this season and all 
seasons. 

To Mr W. Blackwood. Windsor, 26ih December. 

. . . Christmas is just over with all its many memories, 
and I am glad of it. It will not have been very merry for 
you, and it is the worst of such anniversaries that they 
bring so strongly before us the consciousness of every 
empty place. Accept my best wishes for the new year 
on which we are so soon to enter, and give my kindest 
messages to your mother and sisters. I trust Mrs Black- 
wood, surrounded as she is with the devotion of the good 
children who remain to her, is strengthened to bear the 
griefs of which I know she has had no small share. And 
let me congratulate you, on the other hand, on having got 
so bravely and prosperously through the first year of your 
great responsibility. It does not seem to me that the 
Magazine has suffered in the least, and that is a very great 
deal to say, and must give all concerned great confidence 
for the future. . . . 

It seems to me while I write that probably you will 
be in London for George Eliot's funeral. How sad it 
is ! . . . There is something very solemn in the thought 
of a great spirit like hers entering the spiritual world 
which she did not believe in. If we are right in our 
faith, what a blessed surprise to her! 



i£8a] 



A SOLDIER'S DEATH. 



293 



14 Victoria Square, Grosvenor. Gardens, S.W., 
22nd September. 

... I read with sad interest the references to your 
brother's 1 battery in the ' Times ' this morning. If in- 
deed he fell among his men so, it was a soldier's death, 
and one to call forth more envy than pity. "Here where 
men sit and hear each other moan " it is fine to think of 
a career so bravely accomplished. 

1 Killed at Maiwand. 



294 



LETTERS. 



[1881. 



l88l. 

The following letter to Mr Craik is interesting, as 
expressing certain very strongly held opinions about 
what are called society papers. Messrs Macmillan had 
some thoughts of publishing a weekly paper, with Mrs 
Oliphant as editor. 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, January 29. 

I wonder how it would answer if a (I do not say the) 
projected new paper were got to be somehow under the 
patronage of the Queen ? The idea has just shot across 
my mind, and I don't know if anything could be made of 
it, or if even that patronage could be secured. But I am 
sure her Majesty must feel (as she is one of the chief 
sufferers) the iniquity of these society papers which we 
would essay to combat on their own ground. 

I should like very much to attempt some social sketches 
of an impersonal kind in the style {con respetto parlando) of 
the 1 Spectator/ by which one might do all (I think) that 
the gossip papers pretend to do, without the gossip. 
How I might succeed is another question, but I should 
like to try. 

And, I think, that a sort of creaming of the foreign 
press might be done, so as to give the public the chance 
of seeing what different parties say abroad of themselves, 
which is what it is most difficult for dwellers at home to 
know. 

There are a great many other matters which would 
enter into the constitution of such a paper, or weekly 
magazine as you suggest, if you are really going to 
entertain the idea, which it would be a pleasure to 
work out in detail. I must say, however, that I don't 
think my name would be half so much good to it as that 



i88i.] 



THE * MAKERS OF VENICE.' 



295 



of your own firm. With the name of Macmillan to it as 
publisher the public would be sufficiently assured that it 
was neither to be scandalous nor impertinent. I see 
great capabilities in the social way, while entirely re- 
jecting the vulgar aid of personality : the uses of fiction 
have not yet been half exhausted, and its legitimate 
licence is large. 

This scheme seems to have been entirely abandoned, 
and Mrs Oliphant's next work for Messrs Macmillan was 
the * Makers of Venice,' — a book which, however labori- 
ous it was in actual execution, gave her infinite pleasure 
in the collecting of materials. 

To Mr W. Blackwood. 

27 Wellington Square, Oxford, 1st March. 

... I am having a great pleasure to look forward to. 
I am going to Venice to prepare for a companion volume 
to the Florence one. I have just arranged about it, and 
will start in about a month, for a month's stay in that 
city of enchantment. 

I congratulate you heartily on the prosperity of 
' Maga.' You know I have borne a most delighted testi- 
mony all along to the way in which you were keeping up 
the old standard. It is a great pleasure to see it and no 
small triumph. 

Mrs Ritchie's book will be delightful, and is sure to 
have a great sale. It is not only Madame de S6vign6, 
but it is thoroughly S6vign6-ish. 

About the 1st of April Mrs Oliphant started for Venice, 
taking with her her younger son and the cousin who has 
been frequently mentioned. A little group of acquaint- 
ances gathered about her on her arrival, of whom the 
most notable were Mr Henry James, the novelist, and Mr 
Holmes, the Queen's librarian, who had undertaken to 



296 



LETTERS. 



[1881. 



make drawings for the illustration of the book. The 
weather was not very kind, but there were a good many 
fine days, and most delightful expeditions were made in 
search of notable or interesting spots. A sail to Torcello 
was one of the best of these, and among the shorter ones 
was the quest for the house of Marco Polo, which was a 
real voyage of discovery. After staying for a time at the 
hotel the little party moved into lodgings on the Riva dei 
Schiavoni, and had an entirely new and amusing experi- 
ence. After a fortnight, it must be confessed, they were 
glad to return to more sophisticated ways of life, but the 
whole time was full of charm and interest. They moved 
on from Venice to Verona, Florence, and Paris, staying a 
day or two at each, and reached England early in May. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 17M May. 

You will think me a most frightful nuisance, I know. 

Here I have a heartrending appeal from , whose son 

I introduced to you some time ago, and who sent you 
some MS. She says, "The long silence, I feel afraid, 
bodes no good " — it is an 'anguish of mind to her. She is 
afraid that bad news will come when her son is abroad. 
" I wish," says this poor lady, " we could know the worst 
before my dear son is so far away that every pang will 
be the deeper." Stony-hearted editor, can you resist 
this? 

She thinks what he writes is so beautiful and himself 
so clever. Dear, dear! I wish I could have such an 
exalted opinion of my boys. But you will please to be 
so very kind as to put her out of her pain, poor lady. I 
hope it may be the best instead of the worst that they 
have to hear. I warned them that a conscientious editor 
cannot be expected to reply instantly to everybody that 
writes to him, but her six pages of eloquence have over- 
whelmed me. I am sure you will think me an intolerable 
bore, so that is all I shall have for my pains. 



i88i.] A WONDERFUL PIECE OF WORKMANSHIP. 297 



Laurence Oliphant and his wife are with me to-day. 
He tells me he is about to begin something in the Maga- 
zine, which I am very glad to hear. She is a very 
charming young woman. She has taken a little house in 
this neighbourhood, where she is going to stay till he 
comes back from America. 

It was always a subject of regret to Mrs Oliphant's 
friends that there was no good likeness of her. She 
photographed very badly, and indeed only colour could 
have shown the beauty of her eyes and complexion. But 
she would never have herself painted, and the drawing 
alluded to in the following letters was the first ever made 
of her. 

Windsor, 15/A July. 

... I am dreadfully sorry not to send to you the next 
number of the Autobiographies with this. I thought I 
would send you a short paper on Gibbon. It is half 
done, but I am entirely taken off work by the dreadful 
business of sitting for my portrait, which Mr Craik (of 
Messrs Macmillan) has asked me to do for him. The 
artist, Mr Sandys, who has just finished a very fine head 
of Matthew Arnold, is here, living in my house, and 
taking a great deal out of me. This joined to the heat of 
the weather has made me very late. If it is not too late 
I will try to send it to you by Tuesday. Will that do ? 

I hope you are having in Scotland the same steady 
brilliancy of weather that we have here, but here it is 
altogether enervating. Yesterday, with everything we 
could do to secure coolness — Venetian blinds closed and 
every precaution — I " sat " in a temperature of 8o°, and 
to-day it promises to be hotter still. 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, 17M July. 

Mr Sandys' work is going on admirably. He is making 
a most beautiful drawing, the most wonderful piece of 
workmanship I ever saw. He applauds me as a sitter, 



298 



LETTERS. 



and intends, I hear, that this should be the best draw- 
ing he has ever made. The likeness everybody seems 
to consider very satisfactory. To me it becomes very 
touching from the fact that every day it is more and 
more like my mother, of whom I have no good likeness. 

Windsor, 211/ July. 

... I should give up my house here if I could, but the 
lease is a hindrance, and it is very difficult to let houses 
here. I have been in town to-day with my little Denny 
to see Dr Wharton Hood about her arm. Mr Sandys 
gave me a holiday, as the picture is just done — only an 
hour or two's work required about the dress. . . . 

The drawing is quite beautiful. It seems to me much 
more dignified and imposing than I ever was, or could 
be ; but barring this size and grandeur, which Mr Sandys 
seems to me to give to all the heads he draws, it is con- 
sidered an admirable likeness, as well as the most 
beautiful piece of work I ever saw. I believe he intends 
to take it up to town to-morrow, and I hope you will 
allow me to have it photographed for the benefit of my 
immediate friends. 

I am sure your kind heart will be a little troubled 
about me. Don't be so. I am very sanguine and buoy- 
ant by nature, whence some woes and a great deal of 
consolation. I daresay my enforced idleness under Mr 
Sandys was the thing that drove me to despair, and I 
shall be better when I am at work again. 

Unfortunately this drawing, though a very fine piece 
of workmanship, does not, as a likeness, satisfy Mrs 
Oliphant's most familiar friends. The very irregularity 
of her face — the mouth with its expressive if artistically 
faulty lines especially — had a charm which is lost in the 
"dignified and imposing" presentment. 

The next letter is addressed to the mother of the 
present Editor of ' Maga.' 



i88i.] 



EDINBURGH REVISITED. 



299 



Binny, Sept. 6. 

My dear Mrs Blackwood, — We arrived here quite 
comfortably last night, having had time to do all we 
wanted in Edinburgh, where by good luck we had beauti- 
ful weather, the sun shining, and the Old Town looking 
its best. . . . 

It is difficult to find words to tell you how much we 
enjoyed our stay at Colinton and felt your kindness in 
every way. I knew of old what a kind and genial house 
yours was, but it is a great pleasure to renew the know- 
ledge. Both Cyril and I will always think of our visit 
with the greatest pleasure, and I can only thank you and 
your dear girls and excellent son for all your kindness 
to us. It does one good to be allowed to form part of 
such a household even for a little time, and I feel thank- 
ful that my careless boy, who has the gift of always 
appreciating excellence when he sees it, should have had 
the benefit of knowing Mr Blackwood at home. There is 
nothing that does a youth so much good. — With love and 
many thanks, believe me, dear Mrs Blackwood. . . . 

To Principal Tulloch. 

[Probably Sept. 1881], 
WINDSOR, Saturday night (or rather Sunday 
morning, 2 a.m. ) 

My dear Principal, — I was delighted to get your 
letter, and now feel much comforted, and hope you will 
make progress daily. It wants patience, and I am sure 
you have had a very hard trial to go through in your 
banishment and loneliness ; but God be thanked that it 
has had its effect, and I hope you will carry out your cure 
bravely, and not think of coming away till the doctors 
give you leave : as they have been justified in ordering 
you this very bitter medicine, it is only fair to let them 
get the full credit of their wisdom. 

I wrote off to Sir Henry Ponsonby as soon as I got 
your letter. Unless it is promised to somebody, I think 
the mere suggestion that you would take this post of His- 



300 



LETTERS. 



toriographer should be enough. Is there anything to do ? 
and is it worth your while ? 

What do you think of the appointment of the Master of 
University to the Deanery of Westminster ? It seems a 
very curious choice, Mr Hale and I were regretting 
much the other day that you could not have got that. 
Mr Hale said boldly, "They ought to make the Principal 
Dean of Westminster." 

Yes, it is evident that I am much stronger than you 
are. I fancy that women are stronger than men, after 
they get over their special danger, though indeed the 
dear padrona is not a case in point. But think, please, 
if it had been me who had been ill, what would have be- 
come of me ? — no income going on whether one could 
work or not — no wife to take care of me. You are far 
better off than I am in these respects, and, to tell the 
truth, I am often tired to death of work and care — always 
work, work, whether one likes or not. But I am wicked 
to complain. 

It will be very kind of you to write and let me know 
now and then how you are going on. Tids and I are all 
alone at present, living a sort of Darby-and-Joan life, 
which I enjoy much. 

I am going to write to Sara, so I need not send her any 
messages. We start for Scotland on Monday morning. 
— With very anxious wishes for your complete recovery, 
dear Principal, ever affectionately. 

Letters such as the two following give an idea of the 
wide range of reading and of interests which Mrs Oliphant 
always maintained even in the heaviest press of solid 
work. She almost seemed to know books by instinct. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 27M OttoUr. 

. . . For a New Books article I am somewhat divided 
in my mind between an article on Travels — including 
Miss Bird's books, Mrs Scott Stevenson's ' Ride through 



x88i.] 



"THE OPEN DOOR." 



Asia Minor/ and Du Chaillu's new book on Scandinavia, 
which ought to make an excellent article — or Philosoph- 
ical Romance, taking up Mallock's last production, the 
'Romance of the Nineteenth Century/ and 'Clifford 
Gray' — or an article on French and English novels, 
taking up two or three of the latter, and Daudet's last 
two books, * Le petit Chose ' and a very recent one 
called 'Numa Roumestan.' Will you choose between 
them and send me which you like? About the ghost 
story, I am turning it over in my mind, and if I find it 
likely to work out well, you shall have it in good time. 

The idea of the story of the Unseen called " The Open 
Door" was suggested to Mrs Oliphant by part of the 
grounds belonging to Colinton House, near Edinburgh, 
where Mr Blackwood was then residing. 

Windsor, 20th December. 

... I am very glad that Mr Langford likes " The Open 
Door/' and delighted that you are satisfied with your 
New Year number. The Magazine has been so success- 
ful during the last year that I have no fear of your keep- 
ing it up to the highest level. 

The English books that I thought of taking up as a 
balance to the French ones are ' John Inglesant ' (a very 
remarkable book), the ' Portrait of a Lady/ and ' Clifford 
Gray/ — these are all that occur to me at the moment, 
and I have got them all. I will tell you of any others I 
think of. 

I am not going to mix up my Christmas good wishes 
with business, so I shall write again. — With once more 
many thanks. 

To the Misses Blackwood. Windsor, 10M November. 

Dear Bessie and Emma, — I feel so startled and over- 
whelmed by the sad announcement I have just seen in 
the papers, that I have no words to say to you how I feel 



302 



LETTERS. 



for you and how deeply I grieve in your grief. I feel 
more thankful than I can say that I saw so much of your 
dear mother this autumn, and so entirely renewed the 
affectionate regard which I had always felt for her. How 
kind she was ! how thoughtful and good to everybody ! I 
wish I were near enough to go to you and cry with you, 
dear girls. God bless you. I cannot say any more.— 
Yours in deep sympathy and affection. 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, 20M December. 

Your letter is exact to the terms we agreed upon, and 
I shall preserve it as my guide, — many thanks. 

Let me wish you all kinds of good things for the season. 
I feel myself so struggling upon a stormy sea, so wildly 
afloat, and sometimes so little hopeful, that I am but a 
poor sort of raven to croak out good wishes. There are 
times when life is specially hard ; but though you are safe 
and happy, you are not one of those who hug themselves 
upon their comfort and enjoy their peace all the more 
for the roar of the storms outside in which others are 
battling. Many thanks for the helping hand you have 
always been ready to hold out to me, and I pray that you 
may have for your share full measure, heaped up and 
running over, of all that is good and best, both now and 
always. 

Entreat Mrs Craik in my name to come and bear me 
company in Mr Sandys' gallery. I don't think it is quite 
proper that I should be there alone. He is a dreadful 
tyrant, it is true, but it is only once in a way. I do hope 
she will be persuaded to sit. I feel sure he would make a 
beautiful piece of work of her. Will you greet her affec- 
tionately in my name, and give her my kindest and best 
wishes for the New Year and all years ? 



1882.] THE MAKING OF A LITERARY HISTORY. 303 



1882. 

The work here referred to is the ' Literary History of 
the End of the Eighteenth Century.' 

To Mr Craik. Windsor, ut February, 

I can scarcely tell you how pleased I am by your letter 
to-day. I have scarcely had time myself to read the 
proofs, but I was quaking a little about them, and was on 
the point of writing to ask what you thought of them. If 
your opinion is so satisfactory about the first volume, I 
feel encouraged about the rest, which go upon fresh 
ground. I was half afraid of the many recent publica- 
tions about Cowper, Burns, and the elder race. I have 
the second volume ready to send you, but the labour in 
preparing it has been immense, not only from the number 
of people to be taken up but from the difficulty of getting 
the books. I torment the London Library people, and 
have to wait, and to suffer, and to get all my notes con- 
fused by the sudden impossibility of getting exactly what 
I want at the time I want it, which is very bewildering. 
It is almost impossible to get everybody into his or her 
proper niche, and I am afraid the process of adding and 
dovetailing, as one after another turns up, will be a 
tedious business. The Wordsworths, &c, are very de- 
lightful work — one knows them by heart and knows what 
one thinks about them; but imagine me floundering 
among Godwin's set, all the grimy citizens of the end of 
the century and all the novel-writers ! This is the real 
labour of the book. Pray, pray, say exactly what you think 
about the work — you cannot be too candid, nor can you 
do me a greater service than by mentioning every objec- 
tion that occurs to you. About Wordsworth, I am very 
glad that the tide is turning again, but I think it had 



304 



LETTERS. 



fallen a little. I meant to represent the needle of the 
popular compass as just trembling on the turn. It is 
curious how this return of appreciation begins really to 
tell upon Scott. I have not the least objection to cutout 
what I have said about Ruskin — probably I should have 
done it of myself, though to say it was a relief to my 
mind for the moment. You know that an utterance of 
the kind clears one's bosom, even if one throws it into 
the fire the next moment. 

I wonder if you could lend me, or give me, a copy of 
the old edition of Gilchrist's ' Blake ' ? Not the gorgeous 
new one you showed me, which is too good ; and have 
you any of those men 1 of the beginning of the century ? 
This is vague, but I speak in a kind of despair, for their 
name is legion. J do not believe you will get clear of me 
under four volumes. Is this very alarming ? I must have 
a chapter on Robert Hall and the Dissenters and the 
Slave-trade people before I get on to Byron and the 
upper classes, which I am eager to be at. 

But, oh my dear Mr Craik ! how much easier to spin a 
novel than to read and read — so much that there is very 
little interest in reading ! I have had twice a little brief 
attack of what I believe people call overwork — a whirring 
and whizzing in my head which has compelled me to lay 
it back upon a cushion and do nothing for a whole day. 
You will have to send me to Venice at Easter to do that 
book and relieve my mind ! 

I will bring you the second volume as soon as I can spare 
a few hours to come to town. In the meantime I have 
had to leave a little gap at Mary Wollstonecraft, in the 
impossibility of getting a glance — I want no more — at 
her books. 

This year Mrs Oliphant took her holiday in Scotland. 
Her friend Miss FitzMaurice was of the party, with Cyril 
and the two nieces, who were now beginning to fill the 

1 Dr Moore's 4 Zelucco,' Hope's « Anastasius,' Combe's * Dr Syntax,' &c, Ac 



1882.] 



HIGHLAND HOSPITALITY. 



305 



place of daughters in the family. Cecco was in Devon- 
shire reading with a clergyman, and one or two of his 
letters, or rather extracts from them, are inserted here. 
There could hardly be any true representation of Mrs 
Oliphant's life which did not show the close and intimate 
friendship that existed between the mother and son. He 
never ceased as long as he lived to tell her everything 
that interested him. 

Mrs Oliphant to F. R. Oliphant. 

Invercloy Hotel, Arran, 29M August, 

. . . We came here last night. . . . We had a terrible 
voyage here. The morning was grey but fair, and we 
started at eight o'clock for Helensburgh, hoping for good 
weather ; but after we left Greenock it began to rain, and 
literally poured till we got here in bucketsfull. There 
was a large cabin, but it was crammed full and no win- 
dows open, so that it was very stuffy and various people 
sick. We went on deck accordingly, in mackintoshes and 
umbrellas, but got drenched notwithstanding, and passed 
through the Kyles of Bute without seeing anything but a 
few misty ghosts of hills. When we got here, after three- 
quarters of an hour of rather strong sea, it was found 
that my special boxes had gone astray, and on the return 
of the steamer from the further stations on the island, 
Tiddy and I rushed down to see after them. We lost 
each other, however, on the pier, and while he secured 
them, going on board by one gangway, I rushed over to 
the steamboat by another, and was carried off again, with 
only a light cloak on, and not a penny in my pocket. 
Fortunately they touch at Corrie, another place on the 
island, where we were landed in an open boat, and I 
made my way to the inn, and was received with open 
arms by a delightful landlady, who wrapped me up in 
her own fur cloak, gave me a cup of tea, and sent me 
over here in a waggonette, lending me money to pay the 

U 



306 



LETTERS. 



[1882. 



boat, &c. When I asked about the hire of the waggon- 
ette, she said, " Never mind. Hoot, ye'll be coming this 
way again," all this without even knowing my name. I 
got back all right and got dried, but was very cross, till 
consoled by this charming landlady, whose name is Mrs 
Morrison of Corrie — make a note of it should you ever 
be in these parts. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mrs Oliphant. 

IVYBRIDGR, Sept. l8. 

. . . My work is progressing slowly. In fact, the 
slowness is a more distinguishing characteristic than the 
progress. However, if he will go on with Aristotle and 
Plato, which I am going over at present, I shall not mind 
my work so much, but Heaven deliver me from the English 
philosophers and Kant ! I have just been reading Heine's 
' De l'Allemagne,' a very amusing book, where, speaking 
of the influence of Kant's system in literature, &c, in 
Germany, he says, " Par bonheur, elle ne se mfela pas de 
la cuisine." This is my only consolation. The philos- 
ophy which colours everything, even in my walks, and 
reappears in a chaotic state in my dreams, exerts no 
baneful influence over Mrs Creed's cookery. But, alas ! 
we have eaten our last grouse, and there remains but one 
partridge. We have lately received several presents of 
game, but I fear there will be no more. The vicar has 
rather a good system with regard to game. When in 
want of some, he sends to some one of his young Chris- 
tian friends who is likely to have some to dispose of, and 
tells him to remember that beautiful text in the Psalms, 
" The daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift, like as 
the rich also among the people." . . . 

Sept. 22. 

... I am at present engaged in teaching the dachs- 
hunds music. ... I do the solo parts, Herzenfreude 
takes the soprano in the chorus, Volga the alto, and 
Kauffmann and Moleskin the bass, while an obbligato 



1882.] A TRIUMPH OF MIXED METAPHORS. 307 

accompaniment is supplied by a vagrant hen (we don't 
keep poultry) who has established a nest in the bushes 
in the corner of the garden, from which Mosalinda has 
stolen all the eggs. The dogs like music better than 
philosophy, though that also interests them. I dis- 
coursed to Moleskin the other day upon the theories of 
Kant, and he was much interested, but he said Her- 
zenfreude had stolen a bone from the kitchen and he 
wanted to take it back. He is a dog of very high prin- 
ciples. The bone was afterwards found in his kennel, 
but he says that Kauffmann put it there. ... I think 
this extract from a western newspaper pretty nearly 
beats the record (slang again) for confusion of metaphors : 
" He [Sir Stafford Northcote] is a statesman, the blaze 
of whose parliamentary escutcheon has never yet been 
dimmed by the bar-sinister of inconsistency." What do 
you think of that ? 

Oct. 29. 

. . . KaufFman has gone up to Oxford to matriculate 
at Keble College, where he is to live with a Mr Moore, 
a don. His last appearance here was in a council of war 
held by me and the dogs with regard to the proceedings 
of the black beetles. The other night as I was going 
upstairs to bed I encountered on the staircase a very 
Arabi of black beetles, who dashed out of his hole at me. 
As somebody says in * Hypatia,' I considered of the 
lawfulness of the act, not being a man of blood. Never- 
theless, we were on the staircase together, and I smote 
him. But my troubles were not yet over. On reaching 
the landing I saw and crushed another beetle, but as I 
looked round in triumph a perfect army charged from 
under the linen-press, and I retired to my room precipi- 
tately. But not for long. In a few minutes I emerged 
with my shooting-boots on, and the way I waltzed around 
that landing was (to put it in unrefined language) a 
caution. The charge of the Household Cavalry at 
Kassassin, the attack of the Highland brigade at Tel-el- 



3o8 



LETTERS. 



[1882. 



Kebir, was nothing to it. The landing was simply 
heaped with the bodies of the slain. But the beetles 
were not defeated, and fresh hordes soon made their 
appearance, and it was to provide against their absolutely 
overrunning the house that I summoned this council. 
Present were Sieglinda, Volga, Mosalica, Kauffmann, and 
Moleskin. I opened the proceedings by a neat speech, 
in which I was careful to impress on my hearers that 
I was not at war with the black beetles. . . . Finally, 
it was decided to present a joint note to Mrs Creed 
on the subject. Our deliberation seems to have had 
some effect, as I observed that last night the black 
beetles held a council of the notables on the mat at 
the foot of the stairs. Kauffmann is really a great 
diplomatist. During the early part of my stay here he 
distinguished himself greatly in this line. He observed 
that his brother, Moleskin, was treated with great 
attention by everybody because of his shyness, which 
we were trying to overcome, while Kauffman him- 
self, who is a great lump of a puppy endowed with 
obtrusive animal spirits, was not the object of any such 
devotion. He thought that he too would like to hear the 
dulcet accent of the fair Bertie Bidder, coaxing him to 
come and speak to her, and so he at last excogitated a 
scheme worthy of Prince Bismarck or M. Alexandre 
Dumas. He pretended to be Moleskin. Having once con- 
vinced himself that that ingenuous youth was safely 
occupied with a bone in the garden, he entered the 
dining-room with a timid air, and when addressed stood 
still and trembled, and turned his ears inside out, after the 
manner of his brother. Aided by the close resemblance 
between the two, the deception entirely succeeded, and 
was not discovered till after some days, during which 
we had all been flattering ourselves that Moleskin 
was becoming civilised at last, while all the time we 
had been lavishing undeserved caresses on the wily 
Kauffmann. He is, however, a worthy little dog, and 
deserves the esteem of every one for his many good 



1882.] "WE'LL ALL GO A-HUNTING TO-DAY." 309 



qualities of heart and head. On the night before he went 
away, the vicar, contrary to custom, kept Moleskin in the 
house for fear that old Channing, the old groom, would 
send him away instead of Kauffmann, which would have 
been a great mistake, as Moleskin is far the finer dog, 
though his shape is as yet far from perfect. . . . 

Nov. 1. 

. . . Tell Tiddy that ever since I left Westward Ho, 
as throughout the time I was there, I have been unable 
to get out of my head the tune of " We'll all go a-hunting 
to-day." But to-day all S. Devon is singing it, for is it 
not the great day on which the Dartmoor hounds meet 
for the first time ? The scene described in the song I 
allude to, of the parson hurrying off after a wedding 
service to hunt, would exactly suit the vicar to-day. To- 
day being All Saints' Day — the only saint's day which he 
observes — there was an early service before breakfast, a 
sort of hunting mass, after which, to save time, he break- 
fasted in his cassock, then disappeared for a few minutes, 
and returned entirely transmogrified from the priest of 
the sanctuary to the sportsman eager for the chase. 
When he goes out cub-hunting he appears in a costume 
which is parsonic but shabby, but to-day he was in his 
braws, and presented such a fine sportsmanlike appear- 
ance that he might have been taken for Mr Mildmay's 
underkeeper. To add a grotesque shade to the proceed- 
ings, he has to hurry back early for a funeral at half-past 
four, which seems to me a kind of grim satire on the 
whole business. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr W. Blackwood. 

Windsor, 311/ October. 

I want you to tell me what sort of paper you want from 
me for December. There is a foolish story going about 
that the Glamis mystery has been cleared up by the 
death of an old man, either a criminal or a monster, who 
has been living all this time in the secret chamber. I 



3io 



LETTERS. 



[1882, 



think it is simply nonsense, but it would not be at all a 
bad subject for a short story to be called "The True 
Story of a Haunted House." Would you like this, or do 
you think it would approach too nearly to the supposed 
story, or would give the Strathmore family reason to 
complain ? I don't see that it should do so, and I shall 
of course take care to vary the circumstances. Or would 
you prefer a New Books article, or what ? Give me my 
orders, and I will carry them out. 

I hope you are better, and resisting the depressing in* 
fluence of the wet weather. We are in the floods here, 
though fortunately our little Crescent always stands high 
and dry. . . . 

I heard from Mrs Laurence Oliphant the other day, 
from an island in the Sea of Marmora which sounds cap- 
tivating. They seem to be getting along very happily ; 
but I daresay you hear from Laurence often. I am very 
fond of her. By the way, I don't think I have proof of 
next number of the ' Ladies.' 

Windsor, 2nd November. 

... I wish very much to review Mr Howell's the 
American novelist's books with a reference to American 
books and magazines generally. This perhaps would re- 
quire rather more research and consideration than there 
is time for for December, but I should be glad to do it 
for January, and to do my best to put these Jacobs of 
literature on their true level. I think fashion is going too 
far in this respect. 

I do not see my way to getting my Leopardi ready be- 
fore the beginning of the year. Cyril, like all inexper- 
ienced writers, has got a mass of material accumulated 
through which at present he is floundering, not seeing 
how to get it into bounds ; but he is hoping to send the 
first portion, which of course he left to the last, ready 
soon. . . . We concluded, I think, that one volume more 
would be enough, which I thought I might perhaps do 
myself ; but if you think that would be too much of me 
at the end, we might look out for another. I thought of 



1882.] 



MAGAZINES AND FICTION. 



311 



the Great Preachers of France, taking Bossuet and F6ne- 
lon. This, I think, would complete the twenty volumes. 
Of course if Sir Theodore could be got to do that Heine 
instead, it would be much better. 

Windsor, ut December. 

Leslie Stephen, as you will know, has retired from the 
'Cornhill,' and Mr Payn the novelist has got it. He 
writes to me that he means to make it more popular — 
that is, to have more fiction in it, which I think is a mis- 
take ; but, however, as it is favourable to my own trade, 
I have no right to object. I think you are very wise, 
however, not to yield to temptation in this way. I have 
not had time to look at this month's Magazine yet. . . . 

I am looking out upon a fog which one could cut with 
a knife, though it is white, not yellow-bluish like those in 
London, and am perfectly stupid with cold in the head 
— most uninteresting of maladies. I loathe this time of 
the year : when we have turned the corner of Christmas 
one can bear it better. I am very glad to hear you have 
recovered your vigour, but hope you will be careful about 
that dangerous delight of hunting. 



312 LETTERS. [1883. 



1883. 

In the beginning of this year Mrs Oliphant was in 
great anxiety, caused by Cyril's health. Two or three 
very alarming attacks of illness had followed each other, 
and Sir Andrew Clark had given a most serious report 
of his condition. In April his health was sufficiently 
re-established for him to accept an appointment as 
private secretary to Sir Arthur Gordon, who was going 
out to Ceylon as Governor. There was to be a delay 
of some months, however, and in the meantime Cecco 
went to Gottingen to study German, with a view to 
the examination for the British Museum, which he 
hoped to pass. 

The family met again at Heidelberg in autumn, and 
only came back to England shortly before Christmas. 

To Miss Annie Walker. Windsor, 14M April. 

... I don't remember even if I wrote to you that Dr 
Clark made, what it seems is his usual concession, . . . 
that Tids had made a remarkable improvement, and that 
he now thought he might say that with care he might 
shake off the complaint entirely. I hope I told you this, 
but I can't remember. If not, forgive me. We are such 
wretches, so much more ready to distress our friends with 
our troubles than to communicate our relief. 

I am annoyed and distressed to tell you that Longmans 
found your article too serious and long. . . . You must 
not think you are alone in this sort of thing. The spirit 
moved me to write a little trifle with which I daresay 
you might have been amused, about a meeting of a 
newly deceased literary person in Limbo with Carlyle 



I883-] "POWERFUL TRUTH-SEEING IMAGINATION." 313 



and Bishop Wilberforce. Longmans rejected this on the 
score that his readers would not understand it, though 
he politely added that he could not "go for" (as the 
boys say) Mr Froude in the way I wished to do. I then 
sent it to Mr Payn of the * Cornhill,' who says his readers 
would not look at such a thing unless they had a known 
name to it. Wise men both ! but you see I am a com- 
panion in misfortune. . . . 

It is settled about Tids and Sir Arthur Gordon. He 
is to go out with that potentate as one of his private 
secretaries, with something between two and three hun- 
dred a-year. I suppose a private secretary lives with 
his chief, or it would not lighten my purse much to 
make such an arrangement. However, I think the value 
of the practical work for him is everything, and the entire 
change of scene an advantage too. 

Mr A . W. Kinglake to Mrs Oliphant. 

28 Hyde Park Place, April 22. 

My dear Mrs Oliphant, — I cannot help venturing 
to express the admiration with which I have been read- 
ing the i Lover and his Lass.' It is by your powerful, 
truth-seeing imagination, and not by what pedants are 
prone to describe as "analysis" of character, that you 
enchant us. I know of nothing equal to the budding 
of affection in the heart of little Lilias which you enable 
one to see. The language seems to me beautiful, and 
I say this after having redoubled my enjoyment of some 
of the passages by reading them slowly. I delight in 
the Scotticisms. They all conduce charmingly to one's 
knowledge of the people presented to us. 

I "pitied myself," as they say in Cumberland, when 
I got to the end of the book ; but I hear of the ' Ladies 
Lindores ' in a way that promises me pleasure to come. 
I say " to come," for I never read a novel that I know 
will delight me until it reaches the completed form. 

Forgive my intrusion, and believe me, my dear Mrs 
Oliphant, most truly yours, A. W. Kinglake. 



3H 



LETTERS. 



[1883. 



To F. R. Oliphant {at Gottingen). 

Windsor, August 18. 

My dearest Cecco, — I can't tell you how glad I am 
to get your letter, which has just come, and to see that 
you have got on so well. . . . 

I certainly don't know any male creature who writes 
such satisfactory letters as you do, really telling one what 
one wants to know, . . . 

Now about my own proceedings. I had a terribly 
hot and tiresome journey down the Rhine. At Cologne, 
where I rested a few hours, I was cheered by getting 
your telegram, and my journey home was tolerably com- 
fortable. A sleeping -carriage, which I had at first 
thought of, proved impossible; for why? — it was taken 
up by men, so that even if there had been room, it 
would have been impossible for a woman to have any 
share, which I think is rather hard. I had, however, 
a carriage to myself, which was as good, though in- 
volving so many francs to a succession of guards that 
the sleeping-carriage would have been on the whole 
cheaper. At Brussels, at the first station we came to, 
I got out on the score of the vingt minutes d'drret, and 
was left behind by my train ! But fortunately it had 
only gone on to the Midi station, and after sitting for 
an hour and a half — 5.30 to 7 — watching the Flemish 
folk crowding to the early trains, I got on and recovered 
my carriage and all my belongings again, for I had 
left everything, even my boots, in the carriage. . . . 

I always feel very lost when your room is vacant, the 
blank is so very evident and always affects my imagin- 
ation, besides the want of you in other ways. 

God bless you, my dearest boy. — Your loving mother. 



I884-] 



'DAVID ELGINBROD/ 



315 



1884. 

Mrs Oliphant began this year in a house which had 
been lent to her in Hans Place, and which was conve- 
nient, both because of Cyril's preparations for going to 
Ceylon, and of the marriage of her cousin, which took 
place in London. Cyril started on January 29th. Mrs 
Oliphant and Cecco went on straight to Italy, vid Luc- 
erne and Milan, to stay at Bordighera, and later ending 
with Venice. She made at Bordighera the acquaintance 
of Lady Cloncurry and her daughter, Miss Lawless, and 
this proved the beginning of one of the warmest friend- 
ships of Mrs Oliphant's later years. She saw also at 
this time a good deal of Mr and Mrs George MacDonald. 
George MacDonald's first book, or at any rate his first 
successful book, ' David Elginbrod,' had been published 
many years before by Messrs Hurst & Blackett, at Mrs 
Oliphant's warm recommendation. She always spoke of 
it as a work of genius, and quoted it as one of the 
instances of publishers' blunders, for when the MS. came 
to her it came enveloped in wrappings that showed how 
many refusals it had already suffered. 1 John Inglesant ' 
was another typical case of the same blundering — less 
important, however, to the author than the former one. 

To Mr Craik. 44 Hans Place, S.W., January. 

I don't know why people should be so anxious to add 
to my age. I am quite old enough without any addition. 
I protested in the case of Mr Henry Morley's Tauchnitz 
book, and also as to an American one, but I did not 



3i6 



LETTERS. 



[1884. 



know I had the honour of being included in the ' Men 
of the Time.' 

According to my father's family Bible I was born on 
the 4th of April 1828 — I understand that is legal evidence. 
I think I have heard that I was baptised in Tranent par- 
ish. I must write for a certificate, so as to crush the 
gainsayers. 

Thank you for taking so much interest in the matter. . • . 

I hope the rest of Professor NichoPs Literary Facts are 
more reliable. If I had done this, how all the critics 
would have fallen upon me! 

When Mr and Mrs Craik were going to Rome, Mrs 
Craik asked if she could undertake any commission. This 
letter is Mrs Oliphant's answer. 

To Mrs Craik. February 19. 

Dear Mrs Craik, — Only to make a little pilgrimage out 
to the sacred place where my darling lies by her father's 
side — that is all. You knew him too. Yes, I remember 
as if it were yesterday you sitting by my bedside holding 
that miracle of Heaven, my firstborn. What dark waters 
since then one has waded through ! 

Don't be nervous, dear friend, only take this one precau- 
tion. Carry a shawl with you for yourself and the child, 
and when you go into one of those ice-cold churches out 
of the warm Italian sunshine put it on. The cold is in- 
doors, the warmth out. 

I enclose a note for an old artist acquaintance who once 
lived in Capo le Case, close to the Via Sistina, and will be 
heard of no doubt at Spithoever's, an old Roman who 
knows all about the place. Her husband is an American, 
a painter, she a sculptor — neither at all distinguished, but 
in her own particular way she might be of some use. All 
my friends in Rome have died out. I know absolutely 
nobody now, except one kind dear fellow, whom indeed 
I scarcely know, who watches over my little sanctuary in 



1884] 



MEMORIES OF ROME. 



3^7 



the English Cemetery with a delicate sympathy which 
that dear people has the secret of. He is the Marchese 
Landolfo Carcano, and lives, when he is in Rome, at the 
Palazzo Carcano, Via dei due Macelli. If you should 
meet him or hear anything of him, make friends with him, 
please ; but I think most likely he may not be in Rome 
just now. 

Do you know the W. W. Storys ? They are good 
people to be acquainted with. I could easily get you an 
introduction to them if you like. 

I hope — nay, I am sure — you will enjoy it when you are 
there. I wish I were going with you. " Buon viaggio, 
felice ritorno," as our old Capri friends used to say. 

The custode at the Cimeterio Inglese will show you the 
place. 

1th March. 

My dear Mrs Craik, — Enclosed I send you a letter 
to Mr Story from William Blackwood. I don't know the 
Storys myself, but they are intimate with the Blackwoods. 

I hope you have got over your journey comfortably, 
and that you may get a great deal of pleasure out of 
Rome. You will take your child to gather violets in the 
Borghese gardens, and watch the sunset from the Pincio 
— how well I know what you will be doing. I never did 
much sight-seeing in Rome, but go if you can to Albano, 
and to Tivoli, and to the little town on Lake Nemi — 
Genzano I think it is called. Nemi is so lovely. 

Think of me sometimes walking about those ways, 
where I have shed so many tears. My kindest regards to 
Mr Craik. 

To Mr Blackwood. Venice, 2nd April. 

I send you my certificate of existence, attested by no 
less a personage than the Prefect of Venice, the vice-king 
here. I don't know whether his certificate, which he 
thought it better to put into divine Italian, as he does not 
understand English, will be received by the authorities at 
home, but if not I can send to Windsor to get it done. 



3i8 



LETTERS. 



[1SS4. 



My friend, Miss Fitzmaurice, who knows everybody, 
especially in Italy, has this great functionary under her 
orders, so we are very well cared for ; and I have already 
made acquaintance with several of the English and 
American residents, to whom I had letters, chiefly by 
means of Professor Villari, to whom I hope my friends in 
Edinburgh will kindly repay his civilities to me. 

My object in writing now, however, is to tell you that 
we have at length acquired an address, which after so 
many wanderings is quite a luxury. I shall be so thank- 
ful to have the Magazine. 

We have the most glorious weather, and Venice is look- 
ing beautiful, notwithstanding the intrusion of the steam- 
boat, which is fortunately as little oppressive as may be. 
We are on the Grand Canal, in a tolerable apartment, 
after resisting the seductions of a quite lovely little palace, 
which tempted me mightily, though too dear. 

I have heard from Cyril, who is already up in the wilds 
of Ceylon, at a place called Cornegalle, with his Gov- 
ernor, driving elephants! which sounds a very extraor- 
dinary first step into Eastern life. 

I trust you are all well, and getting no harm from the 
east winds. . . . What a sad, miserable thing poor Prince 
Leopold's death is ! He was the only one I knew of the 
Royal Family, and was always nice and pleasant. Every- 
body will feel it, I am sure. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. u 2 Ebury Street, Jufy 30. 

My dear Cousin Annie,— I got your kind letter when 
I was in a state of great anxiety about Cyril, who has 
come back from Ceylon under doctor's orders, the climate 
having proved quite unfit for him. By way of making 
me less anxious he did not let me know till the last 
moment, and I had to hurry back to meet him. He 
had an illness some time ago, of which he made as 
little as possible, and I felt at the time that it must 
have been more serious than he would allow. It turns 
out now that he was very ill indeed, and that after he 



I884-] 



AN UNEXPECTED RETURN. 



319 



got so far better he had repeated attacks of fever, and 
the doctor declared that Colombo would be fatal to him. 
I had a very kind letter from the Governor — much more 
explicit, as you will understand, than Cyril would ever 
be — to tell me all this. I got home last Sunday in 
consequence, not knowing when the ship would arrive, 
which it did on Tuesday morning. I went down to 
Gravesend on Monday night, and so was in time to 
board the Cathay at seven on Tuesday morning. I 
found him looking better than I had hoped, the sea 
voyage having set him up again ; but after we got 
home here, I was not by any means so well satisfied 
with his appearance as at first. ... I had taken a house 
in St Andrews from the 1st, as we can't get home till 
the beginning of September at soonest, and we shall 
go on there on the 30th or 31st. As of course this un- 
expected return involves me in great expense, I intend 
to leave the girls behind; but I think St Andrews is 
the best place for Cyril to get up his strength, which 
is the first thing for me to think of. It is a great 
disappointment, but that seems my lot in life. In the 
circumstances you will see that I can make no answer 
but by thanks to your kind invitation. Some other 
time, perhaps, I may have the pleasure of seeing you 
in your own house. I am very tired of my own un- 
settledness, as you will easily imagine, and would be 
most thankful to get home. I suppose one always 
regrets it when one lets one's house, and I hate this 
supplementary journey to St Andrews, but it is better 
for Cyril to have the bracing air of the North. I miss 
you dreadfully here — it would have been such a comfort 
to go to S. Place and talk it all over : however, it would 
be selfish indeed to regret that, when all is so happy 
and well with you. 

The girls — and boys too — send their love. (By the 
bye, Cecco has entered the band of critics, and had a 
paper in the 'Spectator* the other week, and I hope 
will get on in that way.) 



320 LETTERS. [1884. 

Pilmour Links, St Andrews, Sept. 7. 

... I have been a month here alone with the boys, 
and though they are of course out from morning to night, 
I have really enjoyed it, strolling out upon the sands by 
myself with great peacefulness and refreshment of soul. It 
is half amusing and always interesting to see new develop- 
ments of this kind in one's self, and I am quite glad to 
find that age gives this pleasure in silence and solitude, 
which I had not anticipated. The boys, especially Cecco, 
have been very good, and now and then take me out for 
walks ; and I have been much tranquillised and renovated 
altogether by my quiet time here, and almost grudge the 
modification of it now that the girls have joined me 
again. . . . 

They came to me in the middle of last week, so that 
now we are all here till the end of the month, when we 
shall return to Windsor. It scarcely feels like going 
home, for I have only a year and a half now of my lease 
of the house, and probably after that will not continue in 
Windsor — that is, if nothing new occurs: of course all 
the problems of life may be solved long before that. . . . 

The sea is tumbling in with great white waves before 
the window where I am writing, and the Links have their 
usual Sunday look — very green with the rain. We had a 
catastrophe here the other day, a poor boy drowned bath- 
ing at the Step rock, which, though we did not know 
him, upset us all very much. Cyril, out all day and golf- 
ing, is much better, and has got his old mahogany colour ; 
but he is still not very strong — much less strong than he 
looks. Cecco is very well, and fatter than is expedient 
at his age. I have got through the most portentous 
amount of work in my long spell of quiet, but have still 
an intolerable quantity before me, after the delays and 
idleness of our long rambling. 

To Mr Blackwood. 19 Pilmour Links, St Andrews. 

... Do you think you could hear of a collie for me ? 
I should not like to give much for it, but I have a great 



1884.] THE GLADSTONE FEVER IN SCOTLAND. 32 1 

hankering after one — an honest fellow who has worked for 
his living like my dear old Yarrow, not one of the slim 
fancy articles. 

I suppose you are immersed in odious politics — I get 
more sick of them every day. The Gladstone fever is by 
far the strongest proof I have heard of the old slander 
that Scotland is without any sense of humour. I wish 
Lord Neaves was to the fore to immortalise the thirty- 
two bites which my grave young acquaintance Edward 
Lyttelton has had the solemnity to make known to the 
world. 

Windsor, October 18. 
I sent you my big photograph, enclosing one for Miss 
Blackwood. It makes me a much more imposing person 
than I ever was in reality, but on the whole it has been 
liked by most people, though I think the strength of jaw 
in it equals Father William's, or Mr Gladstone's, which 
is far from being the case in the original. 

Windsor, 13M November. 

I shall return the proof in a day or two, but in the 
meantime I want you to tell me whether you would mind 
me putting your dear mother's initials, E. B., with the 
date, Colinton, 188-, in the little dedication to the "Open 
Door " ? I forget what the date was, but you could tell 
me — the year only, I think, but I should like to put the 
name of the place. 

Stories of this description are not like any others. I 
can produce them only when they come to me. I should 
be glad to do one for the New Year number, but nothing 
suggests itself. By the way, a notion has been coming 
and going in my mind (I think it was suggested by your 
aunt Isabella, to whom I said that it was a thing im- 
possible, but since then the idea has returned to me) of 
a monthly article on " Things in General." Should you 
be at all disposed for anything of the kind ? Short of 
politics, I should be inclined to take in everything that 
was going on — theatres, pictures, books, even a taste of 

x 



322 



LETTERS. 



[1884. 



gossip when legitimate. What do you think ? It might 
be made very interesting, though whether I can do it or 
not remains to be seen. 

The following refers to the short story, "Old Lady 
Mary," which was dedicated to the memory of Mrs 
Duncan Stewart: — 

Windsor, %rd December. 

You said I was probably preparing something for 
Christmas, to come upon you as a surprise. I had no 
thought of it at the time, but the enclosed has presented 
itself, and here it is if you like it. It wants the strong 
effects of "The Open Door" and the others, but still 
it may not come amiss. Look at it, and let me know — 
but soon, please. . . . 

I hope you are better. I am afraid you have too much 
to do, which seems the most general malady now, for 
everybody is saying that you don't write. I have a 
philippic from Lady Cloncurry this morning about the 
delay of " Plain Lady Frances." Poor Editor ! you can't 
do everything, for everybody, at once. Nevertheless I 
should like to have your opinion of the enclosed soon. 
But if Bessie or Emma will kindly send me your message, 
that will do quite well. 



GEORGE ELIOT'S 'LIFE.' 



323 



1885. 

To Mr Blackwood. WINDSOR, 29M January. 

Thank you very much for the * Life of George Eliot,' 
and for the kind and flattering inscription. I am very 
glad to have the book, which is as curious a book as 
any I ever saw. The personality of the great writer is 
as yet very confusing to me in the extreme flatness of 
the picture. I don't mean by flatness dulness, though 
there is something of that, but only that it is like mural 
painting or sculpture in very low relief. I have just run 
over your reviewer's article and think it very good. He 
has most cleverly eluded the difficulties by making a 
picture of his own. I don't think that, from the point 
of view naturally necessary for ' Maga,' it could have 
been better done. 

At the same time, I don't think any one will like 
George Eliot better from this book, or even come nearer 
to her. However, she is a big figure to be taken in all 
at once, and may grow upon one. I am glad that I have 
time to consider, should I make up my mind to say any- 
thing on the subject. Would you kindly say nothing 
about that, as very likely it will come to nothing? and 
even if it does, the excellences of anonymity are always 
evident. . . . 

Would you care to have a few chapters of my Venetian 
book that is to be for * Maga ' ? — they would take the 
form of detached biography of the olden time. One I 
have in my mind is Carmagnola, a very romantic per- 
sonage in the beginning of the fifteenth century. . . . 

Send me Laurence Oliphant's book, please ! I had a 
delightful letter from Mrs L. the other day, and am 
pledged to go to visit them next year, when my lease 
of this house will be out, and when I shall be a wanderer 
on the face of the earth. 



324 



LETTERS. 



[1885. 



Windsor. 

. . . Let me congratulate you on the great success of 
'George Eliot's Life.' It was bound to be a great 
success in a pecuniary point of view, but not in a literary, 
I think. It is quite curious how much more interesting 
her correspondence with your uncle is than any of her 
other correspondences. He seems to have roused her 
out of that ponderousness which must have been natural 
to her. It is quite astounding to see how little humour 
or vivacity she had in real life. Surely Mr Cross must 
have cut out all the human parts. 

I have the mother of your correspondent Miss Lawless 
— Lady Cloncurry — with me just now. She is the most 
charming old beauty of seventy — as bright as seventeen, 
and full of fun and cleverness. It was quite worth a 
journey to Italy to make friends with her. 

Laurence Oliphant's sketches of the Druse villages are 
delightful, but his philosophy is something too tremen- 
dous. I am making the most prodigious effort to under- 
stand his book, but I have to catch hold of the furniture 
after a few pages to keep myself from turning round and 
round, and yet the absorption of such a man of the world 
as he is in a religious idea has something very fine in it. 
I should like immensely to go and visit them, but I fear 
I am too old for that sort of thing. When do you come 
to London this spring ? 

Cecco, I believe, has begged to have his story put into 
type. Will you kindly let me be at the extra expense, 
for I want to give him a lesson in literature in this way, 
— this of course strictly between ourselves — but please 
humour me. 

Windsor, 23rd March, 

... I should like to send you something light for 
next month — an account of what is to be seen in London 
by people going up in May — the various pictures which 
are now being exhibited separately — a few of those in 



I885-] 



LITERATURE VERSUS ART. 



325 



the studios preparing for Academy exhibition — the 
theatres, &c. Should you care for it? Let me know 
at once, if you do. 

The next letter refers to Cecco's candidature for the 
post of Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries. Failing 
the Heralds' College, on which his heart was set, this 
was the kind of employment most congenial to him, and 
naturally his mother greatly desired that he might ob- 
tain it. He did not, however, being probably too young 
and too little known; but he was now beginning to 
write stories and articles, some of them exceedingly clever 
and of great interest to Mrs Oliphant, who was, however, 
no lenient critic of her son's work. 

Windsor, 21st July, 
... I enclose a list of the Council of the Society of 
Antiquaries. There are not many distinguished names. 
I know Mr Evans the President, Lord Carnarvon the 
late President (who has now too much to do, I fear, 
to take any trouble about this), and very slightly Dr 
William Smith, but none of the others. Please help 
me if you can. It appears that the appointment is more 
important than we supposed, and that many good men, 
of much longer standing than Cecco, are in for it, so 
that success is extremely unlikely. Still it can do no 
harm to try. Cecco was rather idle in his Oxford career, 
and did not do so well as he ought to have done; but 
I am happy to say he sees the folly of that sort of thing 
now, and is as determined to get work and to get on 
as I could desire, as well as being my almost constant 
companion and the greatest help and comfort to me. • • • 
Here is a story on the best authority, told to the man 
who told it to me by one of the guests. At a great 
dinner-party lately the Prince of Wales took it into his 
head to inquire into people's incomes. He asked Sir 



326 



LETTERS. 



[1885. 



Henry Thompson what a great doctor might make a 
year, who answered £15,000; then he asked (I think) Sir 
Henry James what a great barrister could do, who replied 
£20,000. Then the Prince turned to Millais and asked 
what a great painter could make : Millais said £25,000. 
The Prince took it as a joke, whereupon Millais explained. 
" For the last ten years," he said, " I should have made 
£40,000 had not I given myself a holiday of four months 
in the year : what I did actually make was £30,000, so 
that I gave an estimate considerably under the fact " ! 
What do you think of this ? It will be a long time before 
an author makes half so much, at least nowadays. George 
Eliot, I suppose, must have been almost the highest in 
our day. 

The next letters are addressed to Principal Tulloch, 
and refer to his dedication of ' Movements of Religious 
Thought' to Mrs Oliphant. She was greatly pleased 
and touched by this proof of affection from so old and 
well-loved a friend. She would have valued it perhaps 
even more could she have known that it was the last 
of his long series of literary work. 

To Principal Tulloch. Windsor, 4M August. 

My dear Principal, — I am very much touched and 
warmed by your letter. What you propose is a very 
great honour to me, one of the greatest possible. It is 
not in the least deserved, but as a token of a long and 
faithful friendship, the sort of brother- and sister-hood of 
so many years, I need not say it will be most sweet to 
me. 

No, do not send me the letter before it is published, 
only don't make me ashamed by saying anything of me 
that would imply knowledge I don't possess. Those old 
long talks were always delightful, but I am sure there 
never was anything on my side save a sympathetic under* 
standing of what you said. 



A VALUED COMPLIMENT. 



327 



Thanks from my heart for so kind a thought. Ever 
affectionately yours, M. O. W. Oliphant. 

My love to my dear padrona. I should have written 
yesterday, but I was kept anxious about Cyril, who was 
extremely unwell. I feared rheumatic fever, but he is 
better to-day. 

To Principal Tulloch. St Andrews, October 2. 

Dear Principal, — I don't know what to say to you 
in reply to the words, more than kind and far more than 
deserved, by which you have placed our long friendship 
on record. As an outward sign and token of that which 
has been so large an element in my life for many years, 
it is very delightful and flattering to me, and to feel that 
you think anything like so well of me goes to my heart. 
I should break down if I spoke, so I write to say the poor 
little return I can for what is at once a great honour and 
an affectionate kindness which touches me to the very 
depths. Your friendship and that of my dearest padrona 
have been among the best things in my life, and I hope 
it will never, either here or on the other side, come to an 
end. With thanks that are beyond words, and the 
warmest return of constant and faithful regard, believe 
me, dear Principal, affectionately yours, 

M. O. W. Oliphant. 

To Miss Bessie Blackwood. Windsor, October 7. 

We got home quite comfortably yesterday morning, a 
little cold, and thinking regretfully of the rugs you were 
so kind as to offer us, but still in very good preservation 
on the whole. We find the trees still wonderfully green, 
and the Virginian creeper in great glory ; but the skies 
are very much decreased in extent, which is a pheno- 
menon I always remark in returning from Scotland ! 

I don't know how to thank you for the kindness which 
we always experience in your delightful house. It is a 
constant pleasure to see you all together in such a per- 



328 



LETTERS. 



[1885- 



feet home. I hope the flowers may bloom and the 
animals thrive even better and better year by year. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. 

Windsor, October 18. 
I am ashamed not to have written before to thank you 
for your kindness in proposing me for the Scottish Club. 
I got in most wonderfully quickly, chiefly through the 
kindness of Archie Smith, who took a great deal of 
trouble about it and was also very kind, but I have not 
yet had the chance of inspecting my new quarters. It 
will, however, be a great convenience to me when I have 
to be in town. I am at present occupied on an article, 
which I hope to have the pleasure of submitting to you, 
on the life and works of John Gwillim the herald, not 
of course from a technical or heraldic point of view, but 
entirely as a gospel for the Gentiles. I think that any 
lay reader, however absolutely ignorant of anything con- 
nected with heraldry, would be amused with his book, 
— the quaintest combination of learning and ignorance, 
philosophy and superstition, that I ever came across, 
seasoned with some contemporary scientific theories of a 
description calculated to make a modern Royal Society 
gnash its teeth and howl with horror. You spoke of 
sending me a revise of the "Grateful Ghosts." Might I 
suggest that the close season for ghosts ends with the 
approach of Christmas, and that in December and January 
they are considered lawful game ? 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 2nd December. 

I sympathise with you very much in respect to the 
obstinacy of Scotland about Mr Gladstone. It is very 
strange, and if it brings about disestablishment it will 
be very unfortunate. Still you know the upper classes 
in Scotland have separated themselves so long from 
the people in that respect that they cannot say much. 
It has always seemed to me a great misfortune for the 
country that the Church of the nation was not the 



1885.] AN ELECTIONEERING INCIDENT. 329 



Church of the gentry : that, of course, is a standing 
weakness, and I have no doubt lies at the bottom of the 
separation in other matters. I trust the Conservative 
majority in Scotland will suffice at least to keep Lord 
Salisbury in power, and to free him from Parnell, who 
is a fearful rock ahead. I can well understand how 
disappointed you must be after all your exertions. . . . 

Windsor, 27M December. 
This is just a word to wish you everything that is 
good for the New Year. I hope you are better, and 
will begin 1886 in good health and spirits, and that 
you may find it a prosperous and pleasant year — the 
anno vcnturo, as the Italians say. I trust too that your 
last new contributor, Cecco, will give you and the public 
satisfaction, and that this may be the beginning of a long 
connection, though I do not think it will be in the way 
of fiction. 

I am looking forward with interest to Laurence 
Oliphant's new beginning. But this is not intended 
for a business epistle, so I stop short with once more 
the expression of my kindest wishes. . . . 

I wonder if you have heard the delightful story about 
Lady Randolph Churchill which is going about. I must 
tell you on the chance that you have not heard it. She 
was electioneering on behalf of Mr Ashmead-Bartlett, 
and some impertinent elector expressed his wish that 
ladies conducted their canvassing on the principles pre- 
valent in former times, in the Duchess of Devonshire's 
way, in which case he should have been delighted to 
promise his vote at once. "Thank you very much/' 
said Lady Randolph, demurely ; " I'll tell Lady Burdett- 
Coutts ! " 



330 



LETTERS. 



[18S6. 



1886. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 25M January. 

I ought to have written to you long ago, but I am in- 
describably busy, more than ever, with a batch of proofs 
always awaiting me, and other work going on. I have 
now the addition of the Venice book to bother me, which 
is under weigh, progressing slowly, and requires always 
bales of books about. . . . 

I forget whether you know about Cecco's "Grateful 
Ghosts." We were discussing the question yesterday, 
and Cecco proposed to send you the number of * Black- 
wood ' containing it by Madge, but I recollect that you 
yourself get the ' Blackwood.' He has also a review of 
" Two Novels " in the ' Spectator 1 this last week, so he 
is getting his push off into literature. But his soul sighs 
for the Heralds' College; he is set upon being Rouge 
Croix or Blue - Mantle, but in the meantime not even 
Madame de Montalembert, who is interesting herself 
strenuously in the matter, has been able to persuade 
the Duke of Norfolk to cut off the head of a pursuivant 
in order to make room for Cecco. This is unkind of 
the Earl Marshal, but these high functionaries have no 
bowels. . . . 

You will have seen, and you will have felt as I do, the 
death of Mrs Laurence Oliphant in Syria. They were 
coming home this year for the season, alas! I cannot 
think of her as dead, and I am sure that dying never 
represented itself to her as death. If she was right she 
is more busy than ever somewhere, and nearer to every- 
body she cared for. But to me it was a great and pain- 
ful shock to hear of it. Poor Laurence, though he too 
will be defended by his belief. 



1886.] DEATH OF PRINCIPAL TULLOCH. 33 1 



To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, February 8. 

I am very much interested by poor Laurence Oliphant's 
letter, which I will send you back the next time I write, 
I should like to read a part of it to one or two friends of 
his here. I quite felt that he would be sustained, as he 
says indeed, though I don't share, and even don't under- 
stand, their peculiar views. The impression of reality in 
all she did and said and hoped for was so strong that I 
myself felt something of the same, as if death could not 
be anything but a trifling circumstance in the course of 
such an immortal creature. I will write to him by-and-by. 
Strangely enough, I had just been putting into a little 
frame a sweet little photograph of her, very small but very 
like, which he sent me before they were married. . . . 

On the 13th of February Principal Tulloch died at 
Torquay. There never was a firmer or more affectionate 
friendship than that which for twenty -five years had 
bound the Principal and Mrs Tulloch to Mrs Oliphant, — 
they were in all soberness a brother and sister to her; 
and this loss, almost unexpected, was not one of the 
smallest griefs of her much-tried life. 

Windsor, \6tk February. 
I send you a very small notice, which might go upon 
the last page if you can manage it. I will set to work on 
an article for April. I don't think I could have done 
anything adequate in so much haste, and in all the sad 
excitement of the moment. Dear Mrs Tulloch has come 
to Eton with Mrs Tarver, and I have seen her to-day. 
I don't know how she is to live. She has known no 
existence apart from him for forty years. However, this 
I cannot enter into. The Queen has written them such 
a letter as makes one love her. I can use no other words. 
I will try and get leave to publish it in the article. It is 
full of feeling and tenderness. 



332 



LETTERS. 



[1886. 



To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, zyd February. 

I have had no time to write to you about the great 
calamity that has fallen upon the Tullochs, and which 
I am sure you will take your full part in, with the rest of 
us. . . . You know something about the repeated illnesses 
the dear Principal has had, illnesses which were not 
bodily at all, and yet, as we are now told, had gradually 
weakened him, so that when real bodily illness seized him 
his condition was rather that of a man of seventy-five than 
of his real age. . . . The padrona, travelling night and 
day in her state of health, got to him when to all the rest 
of the world he was past consciousness. Fortunately he 
knew her, and had a rally after her arrival from which 
there were some hopes. They say he lay calling " Jeanie, 
Jeanie," until she came, and afterwards, if she was out 
of the room for a moment, began this piteous cry again, 
but never while she was there, so he must have felt her 
presence at least. Mrs Tulloch, as I have told you, came 
here with Sara and remained for five or six days. She 
was very quiet, entirely like herself. She never posed in 
her life, and she does not do so now. The Queen went 
to see her in the kindest way, remaining about half an 
hour with her, and talking, as the padrona said, rather 
like " a humble friend " than anything else, and expressing 
the greatest affection for him and gratitude. Mrs Tulloch 
went away on Saturday morning, going to York to Nettie's 
to break the journey. She got there, we hear, tolerably 
well, notwithstanding the great cold. She is going home, 
I believe, to-day. Think of her arriving there, at the 
desolate house, which is her home no longer. I am sure 
you will be sorry now not to have carried out your idea 
of going to St Andrews on your way back from the High- 
lands. Dear old St Mary's, a place which it seemed so 
easy, so natural to go to at any time, but which we can 
now go to never again. The boys went to St Andrews to 
the funeral, which seems to have been a wonderful sight. 

The Queen sent for me on Saturday, when we had a 
long talk — very different from my first audience : this was 



i886.] 



ROYAL COURTESIES. 



333 



in a beautiful little room, where she was alone. She 
spoke to me a great deal about the Tullochs and also 
about myself, and was very sweet and friendly, hoping to 
see more of me, and other amiabilities. It alters one's 
idea of her when she is very pleasant to oneself, and I 
saw a great deal in her of the pleasantness which the 
Principal used to talk so much about. She seems to have 
been really attached to him. I hope there is no doubt 
that the dear padrona will get a pension. . . . 

To Mr Blackwood. March 8. 

The Queen was extremely kind and gracious to me, 
so kind that all one's little embarrassments about such an 
interview went completely away. She talked, of course, 
a great deal about the Principal and his family, and told 
me about her interview with Mrs Tulloch, which seemed 
to have touched her much. She also inquired into my 
own movements, and expressed a kindly wish to see more 
of me, now that I had definitely decided to remain in 
Windsor. 

I wish I could tell you one or two political questions 
she put to me, but I must not, I suppose. 

A few days after this interview we were startled late 
one evening by a ring at the bell, and the maid came 
upstairs quite excited, carrying a large parcel, which she 
said had been brought by " two soldiers from the Castle " ! 
and which proved to contain copies of Her Majesty's 
Journals in the Highlands, the special copy largely 
illustrated, which she has to give away, accompanied 
by a very pretty note from Sir Henry Ponsonby, evidently 
dictated by the Queen, saying that " she is well aware 
how humble her efforts are at authorship, but as a true 
Scotchwoman the Queen ventures to send them to you." 

I thought it right, as I believe she likes to have one's 
thanks sent to herself, to write to her, thanking her for 
the books, and now I have a most gracious autograph 
letter. In short, my maids are getting quite used to the 
sight of the orderly. 



334 



LETTERS. 



[1886. 



To Lady Cloncurry and the Hon. Emily Lawless. 

Windsor, 17M Afarth. 
This is the plaint of a much - aggrieved and injured 
woman. Why, because I have a great deal to do and 
want a little consolation, will nobody write to me ? Call 
you this backing o' your friends ? 

18M March. 

Thus was I unburdening my soul when your letters 
came. I don't in the least know to whom I am writing, 
so I will go on in the abstract ; but, please, when I make 
complaints of being busy, &c, understand that I want to 
be sympathised with, petted, and to have pretty letters 
written to me — not, oh, not to be left alone, which does 
not suit my condition at all. 

Having made this protest, let me now answer your 
delightful letters received last night. Yes, dear friends, 
I will come with the greatest pleasure, and look forward 
to the little holiday. I am afraid I can only stay one 
night, but I shall so like to come. Will you have me on 
Wednesday or Thursday next ? I have got one of my 
odious (and hideous) colds, and I shall hope by that time 
that it perhaps may have begun to work itself out, I 
hope the weather has taken a turn. It is pretending to 
rain a little here, which will be so good for us. 

Mrs Oliphant was suffering much at this time from 
rheumatism, which made walking extremely difficult and 
painful. As her old friend Miss FitzMaurice was dis- 
posed to try the baths at Wiesbaden, they decided to 
go together, accompanied by Mrs Oliphant's two adopted 
daughters. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, August 2. 

We are, I suppose, just on the eve of leaving, which 
you will think rather a queer statement to make. But 
it is true enough, for I am going on preparing more 
or less in faith, but not very sure whether we shall 



1886.] 



WIESBADEN. 



335 



not be stopped at the last moment. My purpose in 
determining to go to Wiesbaden was very much for 
Miss FitzMaurice's sake. ... If she is well enough to 
start, and her doctor authorises it, we go on Wednesday. 
But it still remains doubtful. If you don't hear to the 
contrary, you may conclude we have gone, and are to 
be found at the H6tel des Quatre Saisons (I really 
cannot write the German name), Wiesbaden. Do you 
still intend to go up the Rhine on your way to Swit- 
zerland? If so, you should stay a night and see us. 
Do you remember being there for a night or two once 
many years ago, and how my maid Theodora lost her 
own bonnet, and all my collars and cuffs, on the pier 
at Biebrich? . . . 

The election must have been very exciting, and in 
the end a great pleasure and triumph. You must be 
pleased to have a representative in Parliament. We 
are much interested in a humbler event, a possible 
vacancy in the British Museum, for which Cecco is 
held in suspense. He is going probably to Gottingen 
to brush up his German, in case he should be nominated. 
There is an examination, a limited competition, and 
he has never been very happy in examinations. This 
coming on makes my arrangement for going to Wies- 
baden still less desirable, and Cyril's movements are 
uncertain too ; so that I do not look with much delight 
to the prospects of this week. 

Mrs Tulloch has left St Mary's. It seemed rather 
dreadful to direct to her to-day 12 Queen Street. They 
say she is very tolerably well, and they find the new 
house much warmer than St Mary's, which is some 
small compensation. 

This is a queer budget of news, but I think you will 
like to hear before I go away, if I do get away! 

The party arrived safely at the H6tel des Quatre Saisons 
at Wiesbaden, and after a short stay removed thence 
into a very cheerful and comfortable apartment. The 



336 



LETTERS. 



[1886. 



baths seemed a success, and, in spite of the tremendous 
heat of the weather, the experience might have been 
a pleasant one, in retrospection at least, but for one 
unlucky incident. A jewel-box, containing nearly every 
trinket she possessed, was stolen from Mrs Oliphant's 
bedroom. It is true, as she said herself, that she was 
not rich in ornaments; but several of the things then 
lost were of the utmost value to her — gifts of her hus- 
band and of dead friends, or memorials of her little 
daughter. There were two or three valuable rings also. 
Not one of the things lost was ever recovered. 

While his mother was at Wiesbaden, Cecco was mak- 
ing a second stay at Gottingen, and the next letters 
are addressed to him there. 

Mrs Oliphant to F. R. Oliphant. 

H6tel Royal, Bonn, August 8. 

My dearest Cecco, — I have been thinking of you, 
and following you all the night, hoping you have had 
a good passage. . . . 

We had a most amusing companion in the carriage 
with us as far as Dover, an old gentleman who informed 
us first that he was going to a presentation of colours 
at Dover, then that he had governed nearly all our 
colonies in succession, then finally that he was Sir 
George Bowen, and favoured us with various scraps 
of his speeches and verses of poetry, his own and other 
people's. No such incident attended our farther journey, 
though we had an interesting old lady, the widow of 
Moscheles the composer, as far as Brussels. . . . 

I hope you will like your journey and like Gottingen, 
my dearest Cecco. Remember that getting a little 
pleasure and health out of it is as much consequence 
as any examination. I do hope that you will get rid 
of your cough. Speak to Dr Brughlll about it. 

God bless you, my dearest boy. I thank Him every 



1886.] PRINCIPAL TULLOCH'S LETTERS. 337 



day of my life that I can have full trust in my Cecco. 
Write soon,— Your loving mother, M. O. W. O. 

To Mr Blackwood. 

7 Gibson Place, St Andrews, nth Sept. 

I feel myself quite without excuse in not writing for 
so long a time, but I find my work so thoroughly enough, 
if not too much for all my time and faculties nowadays, 
that I literally never write a letter when there is any 
means of staving off the necessity for doing so. Time 
begins to tell upon me in this as well as in other ways. 
I was not aware, however, that I had not written in 
reply to your letter about the biography. I decided, 
from a mixture of many motives, that it was incumbent 
upon me to do it, though of course it is not a remunera- 
tive piece of work. . . . The most important letters, 
however, will be from Mrs Tulloch, who is working in 
the most touching way at her stores, and living over 
again her youthful life. I hope it is more sweet than 
bitter to her to have the necessity of doing so. She 
has given me the first set of letters, dating from '43, 
the beginning of their acquaintance, till their marriage 
in '45, from which I feel that a most simple and delight- 
ful picture of the young man may be made out. She 
seems to have kept everything, and as he was often away 
from home, there must be a very full record of his life in 
his letters. He wrote every day. Poor dear, it is per- 
haps the best occupation she can have to live through 
again the wonderful union which was so complete. 

I do not see, however, that it is possible to think of 
completing the book before Easter of next year. I don't 
think this will be at all too late; indeed I shall have 
to bear the impertinence of the critics, no doubt, as to 
hurrying into print evidently before the grave is green. 
However, I have borne so much at their hands that I 
shall no doubt be able to bear that too. 

Windsor. 

I ought to have answered your letter before, but I have 

Y 



338 



LETTERS. 



[1886. 



got to that chronic and helpless stage of busy-ness (do 
you know it ?) when one does nothing. My mother used 
to tell a story of some poor woman whom she found sit- 
ting down disconsolately in the middle of a disorderly 
cottage, having so much to do that she got hopeless and 
did not know where to begin. That's me ! 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 27M November. 

I see by the 1 Athenaeum * that the Magazine is to be 
enlarged (I think you might have told me, but that is 
neither here nor there). I wonder whether you would 
think well of a plan which has been long in my mind, 
and which, if I had ever had a magazine in my own 
hands, as I once thought I should, I should certainly 
have adopted. This is a standing article upon literature, 
a review of all the books of the month worth reviewing, 
with admixture of speculation and general comment, as 
would be natural, — not merely, however, an occasional 
paper like my own of this month, but a regular one, for 
which people would look. There is nothing of the kind 
anywhere. The reviews are essays on the subject of the 
book they nominally review, and I think the series I pro- 
pose would be a popular one. As you are increasing 
your space, you will probably have room to make an ex- 
periment or two. I should be glad to undertake this for 
you, very provisionally, for three or six months, as an 
experiment. I have a very strong feeling that it would 
answer. 

I do not think the Murray Magazine will be an alarm- 
ing competitor, so far as I hear. A paper from Matt. 
Arnold, and one from Froude occasionally, will scarcely 
put life into the array of Arnold hangers-on who will 
constitute the rank and file. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, Dec. 1. 

My mother has been very unwell for the last two days, 
though with nothing more than a bad cold, I am happy 
to say, and has consequently deputed me to answer you. 



1886.] 



"THE OLD SALOON." 



339 



She has been trying to make out a suitable list of books 
for the first article. . . . 

To undertake to read a tragedy is a very serious thing, 
but our household is large, and we might perhaps man- 
age to read to the end of it between us. Then there 
is a publication entitled * Humorous Masterpieces of 
American Literature/ which my mother would be 
willing to mutilate and slay, if it were pleasing to 
you. I see that forty-five names are given as samples 
of the humorists from whose works these masterpieces 
are taken. Surely that land must be favoured beyond 
all other lands, where forty-five writers have achieved 
masterpieces of humour. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, ioM December. 

I must throw myself on your indulgence in respect 
to the enclosed. I have been interrupted in finishing 
it by my cold, which is still very bad. . . . The Review 
article is going on : you will get the greater part of it by 
the 15th if possible. I see my way, I think, to making 
a good thing of it, but I very much want a good name. 
I should like to call it "The Saloon at 45," or something 
of the kind, and begin with a little sketch of that tradi- 
tionary chamber. But perhaps you would not like this. 
Think it over, and if you can hit upon a good name tell 
me—" The Table of 4 Maga ' " ? I am at a great loss 
for this. I write from bed ; but whatever I do I cannot 
chase the oppression from my head, which is where it 
always centres. 

I have got most of the books, but not Dowden's Shelley 
as yet. Lord Shaftesbury's Life is interesting — all the 
more as showing up the vile fallacy that all help to 
working men has come from so-called Liberal hands, 
which many misguided people believe. 



The name finally chosen for this series of papers was 
"The Old Saloon." 



34o 



LETTERS. 



[1886. 



Windsor, 20M December. 
. . . Thanks for the old numbers; they are very in- 
teresting, and what vigour in them ! — but one could not 
speak so strongly now. 

Windsor, 28M December. 

I have been stopped by a little absence from home 
from answering your letter. ... It seems an excellent 
number, with the exception of the short story, which is 
not up to ' Maga's * mark. The article on Hayward is 
very good. Sir Edward Hamley, I think ? I remember 
him telling me how dear old Mr Kinglake climbed up 
all those stairs to sit with the old man every night, 
which was very touching, and impressed me much. 

Laurence Oliphant's narrative is most exciting — all 
those articles of his have been excellent. You should 
get him to begin a new series. I don't agree about 
John Knox with Mr Skelton. I think he exaggerates 
the share of the Reformers in the destruction of the 
churches, though what he says of their destroying the 
feeling of sanctity in the Church, and therefore indirectly 
bringing about their ruin, is fine, I think, and probably 
true. My own belief is that all the Reformers destroyed 
were the images, and decorations of the altars, which 
probably were very tawdry affairs, as well as abhorrent 
to their new-born zeal. I have strong leanings towards 
the Catholic Church in Catholic countries, but I can't 
say I should mind purifying a great many altars I know 
in John Knox's way. The dolls in their tinselled robes, 
which represent the Virgin so often in France and Italy, 
are enough to justify any amount of iconoclasm. It was 
not John Knox but the horrid eighteenth century which 
did the harm. I shall say as much, perhaps, in the most 
polite way when the book comes into the old Saloon ; 
but the articles are very clever, and well worth reading. 
I hope with all my heart that you may make a distinct 
new start with the new year, and carry ' Maga ' far be- 
fore all competitors, as is her due. 



I887-] ALTERNATIONS OF HOPE AND DESPAIR. 341 



1887. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 12M February. 

I meant to have written to you at once on getting your 
letter, or indeed sooner, on getting your flowers, to thank 
you for them ; but everything has been put out of my 
head by Cecco's illness, which makes me incapable of 
any other thought. He has had a cough for some time 
which was said to come from the throat ; and though it 
gave me some uneasiness from time to time, yet, as I was 
assured the lungs were quite well, and that it was only 
irritation of the throat, I suffered myself to be quieted. 
Since Christmas, however, he has been getting very thin, 
and about a fortnight ago he was persuaded, or almost 
forced, to put himself under active treatment by a Dr 
M., whom he happened to have taken a fancy to— a young 
man supposed to be very clever — who came and told me 
on Tuesday last quite calmly that it was laryngitis with 
a tendency to tubercle, and all that follows. I know you 
will feel for me. You will imagine that every moment 
since has been spent in watching him, in thinking of him, 
in alternation from hope to despair. He is going to town 
to see Dr Maclagan on Monday, and if he is ordered to 
go away to the Riviera or anywhere else, I of course will 
go with him and at once. How I am to give up my 
work and do this I don't know, but I must and will, 
unless Providence absolutely forbids. My mind jumps at 
everything that is worst and most dreadful, as you will 
readily understand. 

I don't know how things will shape themselves in face 
of this sudden and unthought-of misery. If we have to 
go, I will try to let my house in April when the Guards 
come. But nothing is clear, — the means even of so far 
slackening work as to make my entire attention to him 
practicable is as dark as the rest; but it will be made 



342 



LETTERS. 



[18S7. 



possible somehow by God's grace, I hope. This is too 
miserable a letter to send to an invalid. I am very sorry 
you are ill, and hope that it may not be long before you 
mend. You will not mind my selfishness in writing all 
this to you. The comfort is that you will understand. 

Windsor, igtk February. 

I have arranged all my little affairs, and we start 
on Tuesday. We think of going to Pau, where there is 
a golf club, which I think will be a good thing for Cecco. 
He is a little better, I think, eating better, and his cough 
variable, sometimes not troublesome at all. God grant 
that the move may do him good. You know how anxiety 
of this kind acts upon me. I am in a suppressed fever, 
and can think of nothing else day and night. I watch 
every morsel he eats, every varying look and change of 
colour. How strange it is! All my troubles, and God 
knows they have been neither few nor small, have been 
repetitions — always one phase or another coming back, 
and that makes it all the worse, for I know how far my 
anguish can go. 

I will write to you when I have anything good to tell 
you. The girls, I am afraid, will be dreadfully dreary left 
at home. Should you be in town on your way to Italy, 
I hope you will come and see them. . . . 

The following are addressed to Mrs Oliphant's adopted 
daughters : — 

Hotel de France, Pau, March 1. 

My dearest Children,— It is your turn to have the 
bulletin, and I am writing in the morning before break- 
fast, Cecco having not yet appeared. We had a tolerable 
day yesterday. We were out in the morning, and in 
the afternoon he went down alone to the golf-ground, a 
long walk, and found Mr M. at once, and was put down 
for the Club. ... I thought yesterday that through 
the whole course of the day he looked a little better; 
probably I shall be down into the depths again to-day. 



i88 7 .] 



A TERRIBLE BLOW. 



343 



I don't think there is any torture in the world like 
anxiety: it rends my heart to pieces — I feel it sore in 
my breast. . . . 

It was very east-windy here yesterday, and cold round 
the corners, though the sun is quite hot, and always 
blazing: now and then the mountains disappear alto- 
gether, and then there is nothing in front of us but a 
line of low hills, which will be green a month hence, 
but at present are, I should think, less advanced than 
the trees in the Crescent. This has a very curious effect 
in the blazing sunshine, which feels like summer, while 
the vegetation is still all dormant like winter. The 
"links" on Sunday looked like St Andrews Links (I 
mean the actual ground, the turf) on a hot summer 
day, but still there is not a bud on the trees. We 
noticed the same thing at Nervi, but there were more 
evergreens there. 

Pau, 23rd March. 

. . . We went up-stairs to Mdlle. de Castelbajar's 
last night. There were about half-a-dozen ladies — 
Madame la Marquise That and Madame la Comtesse 
This — and one gentleman. The room very much 
crowded with furniture, nicknacks, and pictures, and 
two card -tables where everybody except me played 
whist; one of the games was honest bumble-puppy 
like our own, and great fun; the other serious play, 
Mdlle.'s own partie, to which Cecco had the honour 
to be promoted. I know that he is considered tris-bien 
Sieve, and that I too am approved of, but less warmly 
— this through the maids. Cecco lost 6 francs, but was 
amused and will go again, for which I am too thankful. 
If Heaven would only send a young man ! not too good 
at golf. 

After Mrs Tulloch's death :— 

Pau, 30M March. 

I have just been writing to Cyril about this terrible 
blow, but in the idea that he may possibly have gone 



344 



LETTERS. 



[1887. 



to St Andrews before he receives it, I write to you 
too, and send you Mr Baynes's letter, which is very 
hard to read, but which contains a great deal you 
will like to see. It was very kind of him to write so 
fully. . . . 

I have been trying to say to Cyril that I am glad, — and 
so, in a sense, I am. It seems the right thing and the 
best thing, but I don't think I shall ever want to go 
to St Andrews again. To think one will never see her 
sweet worn face again is what I cannot realise. It 
makes it more like a dream that I should be so far 
away. I got a letter from her dated the nth March, 
after which she had written to some people to ask 
them to call on me here, for Cecco's sake. She wrote 
so tenderly and anxiously about Cecco. . . . 

I think I told you, however, that when she bade me 
good-bye last in St Andrews I was very much struck with 
the emotion she showed. She had never before showed 
so much feeling in parting with me, and that was why 
I said I would go and pay her a visit in February, which 
was stopped by Cecco's illness. She had no heart to live 
any longer — and why should she ? — her work was done. 
God bless her wherever she is now — if we could only 
know a little where it is. The two will be together, 
wherever it may be. Of course you will see about a 
wreath. I did the best I could here, I made a little 
cross as big as the biggest flower -box I could get, and 
covered it with the pale Parma violets, which are so 
sweet, and I sent a box of anemones besides. . . . 

PAU, ApriL 

. . . We are now just beginning to get into the 
discomfort of a move again, after being so long 
settled here, and by this time next week I suppose 
Lina will be on her way home, our avant coureur. I 
hope Cecco will stand the travelling, and I hope that 
I myself may stand it. I daresay I shall be dread- 
fully tired of it before it is over. However, there 



i88 7 .] 



SPAIN. 



345 



will be no fatigue for the next week, as the journey to 
Biarritz is nothing to speak of. It will cost — that is, 
the three weeks will cost — a horrible deal of money, 
at which I shiver, but some of it at least will pay, or 
so I hope at least, I am working very hard at an article 
for the June 4 Blackwood * to get it off my mind before 
I go away. . . . 

Mdlle. de Castelbajar has asked us to dine there on 
Monday, as it is our last night. She is very anxious we 
should come back next year, and thinks it will be very 
ungrateful to Pau, which has done so much for Cecco, 
if we don't. I gave her Denny's love, and she was quite 
pleased. Nobody could be more kind, and I feel quite 
sorry to say good-bye to her. I am to have her photo- 
graph. Oh dear! one of my lamps has just gone out, 
and the smell will be insupportable presently. So I must 
stop and fly to bed. God bless you, my dearest children. 
How glad I shall be to get home. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 26th May. 

Here we are back again with, thank God, the com- 
pletest reason to be satisfied with the hurried and anxious 
step I took with trembling three months ago. Cecco is 
to all appearance quite well ; his cough has almost dis- 
appeared, and his general health is quite satisfactory. 
He has gained in weight, is in perfectly good spirits, and 
altogether is quite a different creature, thank God. The 
doctor at Pau said that he ought to spend next winter 
again abroad, but it is a long time before that question 
need be discussed, and in the meantime I am full of 
thankfulness. We got home on Monday night. Our 
Spanish trip was too hurried, yet we saw Burgos, Toledo, 
and Saragossa, all most interesting places, fairly well, 
besides Madrid and Barcelona, which are great flourishing 
modern towns, more or less like other places; and the 
sight of the country itself, even in the mere course of the 
journeys, was very curious and interesting. However, I 
need not say the best thing we saw was home, looking 



346 LETTERS. [1887. 

very bright and full of flowers, for a great part of which 
I have to thank you: they gave us the most fragrant 
welcome. Cyril and the girls were, I am sure, most 
unfeignedly glad to see us. It must have been a very 
dark time, especially for Madge and Denny; but they 
have been very busy, which is the best way of making 
the time pass. . . . Now, I want you to come to me for 
the great week here, the Jubilee. It begins, I believe, 
on Tuesday the 21st, and lasts the rest of the week. I 
don't know whether you will be able to get admission 
to Westminster, or if you will want to see the pro- 
cession in town; but at all events I hope you will 
come in time for the Queen's entrance into Windsor, 
which I should think would be a pretty sight, and 
stay as long as you can spare the time, till the end of 
the week at least. There are to be all kinds of fetes, 
I believe. 

In the cheerful and hopeful mood induced by the suc- 
cess of the Spanish journey, Mrs Oliphant was able to 
enjoy the festivities of the Queen's Jubilee and the com- 
pany of the friends who filled her house. Of course she 
worked hard all the time, but work never seemed to 
exhaust her. "As long as the children were well," as 
she so often said herself, all was well. But Cecco, 
though he had greatly mended for the moment, was 
weak, and her fears were only lulled, not ended. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, August 1. 

. . . May I ask what you are going to do about the 
Borgia papers? My reason for asking is that we are 
just leaving Windsor to spend a month in the Lake 
district, and I should like to know whether I ought to 
take the manuscript with me and finish the translation 
now. I am happy to say that I have as much work 
as I can manage just now, and in addition to all else, 



I8S7-1 



A PERFECT RURAL SCENE. 



347 



I have just got my nomination for the British Museum, 
and must rub up a great deal of faded knowledge for 
the examination, which will be in the beginning of 
October. I am going to the Lakes to try and get 
stronger by that time, so the whole family makes a 
mass movement in that direction on Wednesday. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mrs Harry Coghill. 

Royal Oak Hotel, Rosthwaite, Keswick. 
. . . We have been here about ten days in the very 
heart of the hills — in a very homely inn, where every- 
thing is a little frowsy, as old carpets, old furniture, &c, 
of the lodging-house kind are apt to get, but the food 
more or less good. Cecco had rather a roseate rec- 
ollection of it, I suppose, and I was dreadfully taken 
aback when we arrived; but most things ameliorate by 
the great art of putting up with them, and we are not 
uncomfortable. The boys walk almost all day, though 
the weather has rather conspired against them, and 
they have had to postpone their big mountain climbing 
from day to day. This is our first absolutely and hope- 
lessly wet day, and even now there are glimmers as if 
it might clear. Cecco, on the whole, is very well. I 
can't remember whether I gave you the doctor's last re- 
port of him or not. I suppose I must have done so, that 
he thinks him to have made great progress during the 
summer, but that, privately between ourselves, he will 
not let him live in London "for several years," though 
Cecco has not been informed of this definitely, the B. M. 
business not coming on till October. Nothing could be 
more entirely mountain air than we have here, and I 
don't think I was ever conscious of air so sweet : a sort 
of mingled balm of cow's breath and hay is in the whole 
atmosphere, the former predominant ; and it is the most 
entire and perfect rural scene that could be imagined, 
hills, and very fine ones, rising up on all sides. The 
colour is cold, there is very little heather and too much 
green, but that is the only drawback. 



348 



LETTERS. 



[1887. 



This was the time of the British Museum examination 
about which Cecco had been very anxious. During the 
short visit which his mother paid to her cousin, Mrs 
Coghill, in Staffordshire, he passed this test brilliantly, 
earning a large number of marks in excess of what 
was required. He was naturally delighted with this 
success, and his mother shared in his pleasure, though 
she knew better than he did how much difficulty his 
delicate health might cause in the matter of an 
appointment. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. 

39 Dover Street, Piccadilly, October 30. 
. . . My mother has gone to stay for a day or two 
with the Coghills, where I hope she will have better 
weather than we have here now. A regular spell of 
rain seems to have set in. We leave London at the 
end of the week. London amusements are at present 
diversified by the pleasant uncertainty whether the next 
turning one takes will not land one in the middle of a 
demonstrative mob of young roughs, soi-disant the un- 
employed. These being usually personally conducted 
by a considerable force of police, things are not so 
bad as they were in February last year; but still there 
are dangers to be dreaded by a man with a new hat, 
the thing of all others which seems to excite the great- 
est fury among them, and mine is not yet a month old. 
I saw their procession going up Bond Street to-day, ap- 
parently very quiet and orderly. Many people think 
that the unemployed are not bad fellows on the whole, 
as long as you don't ask them to work, but they are 
certainly an abominable nuisance. 

In spite of Cecco's success in his examination, he 
was destined to disappointment, the medical author- 
ities deciding that his state of health was unsatisfactory. 



i88 7 .] 



A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT. 



349 



Against this decision he appealed, and gained permis- 
sion to be re-examined. But the appeal turned out to 
be from Sir A. Clark to Sir A. Clark, and the decision 
was reaffirmed, to his bitter disappointment. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mrs Harry Coghill. 

Windsor, December 6. 
I was just about to write to you when I got your note. 
I should have done so before if I had been sure that you 
were at home to tell you my tale of troubles. As you are 
so near, I shall run up to-morrow by the i o'clock train. 
It will be a relief to talk it all over with you, for all my 
hopes have come to nothing. Cecco has been rejected 
by the C. S. Commissioners on the score of health. Sir 
Andrew Clark has decided against him, and his work is 
made all of no avail. It has been a most bitter disap- 
pointment, though he has taken it very bravely. Sir A. 
C. allowed that he was quite able for the work now, but 
could not certify that he would be so uninterruptedly, 
as if that could be said for the most robust. I will tell 
you all about it to-morrow. The Blackwoods are in your 
hotel, and my visit will be half to them. 

Windsor, 30M December. 

I have received no parcel, but will send at once to make 
inquiries. I hope it may still turn up. I have felt so 
guilty myself in not having written nor sent you the 
Venice book, which was to be your Christmas present, 
that I had not felt I had any right to a letter from you. 
Now I write from bed, where I am staying in the morn- 
ings partly for work, partly with the hope of staving off 
one of my colds, which I fear, however, has got its fangs 
upon me. I send you with this the * Makers of Venice,' 
which I hope you will like ; the pictures, at all events, are 
nice. It has been out only a few days. The first opinion 
I have heard of it is Mr Gladstone's, to whom Mr Mac- 
millan sent it, and who sent back to him at once a letter 
of four pages saying, first, that he was not going to Venice, 



3 SO LETTERS. [1887. 

as had been reported ; and next, that he must contradict 
himself, and say that he had been in Venice, the book 
having quite given him that feeling ; after which he enters 
into a question of Venetian political history about Baja- 
monte, whose very name, I should think, was unknown 
to most readers, but with whom this amazing old man 
seems intimately acquainted. 



1888.] "NOT CRITICISM BUT PERSONAL ASSAULT." 35 1 



1888. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 30M January. 

I send you with this the conclusion of * Joyce/ which I 
hope you will like. I have been so busy with it that I 
have put off for a day or two thanking you for your kind 
notice of the Venice book. It is most good and kind of 
you to have had it put in hand so quickly and given the 
book the advantage of such a valuable opinion in its 
favour. I hope I am not going wrong in writing to 
thank Mr Skelton for it. His hand is unmistakable, even 
had you not given me a hint. I hope you yourself like 
the book. You would see the insulting attack upon me 
in the ' Saturday Review/ which is not criticism at all but 
a personal assault. What I can have done to get myself 
such a bitter and spiteful enemy I can't imagine. 

This spring, though Cecco's health had so much im- 
proved, it was thought advisable that he should again go 
to the south of Europe. He went alone, but, depending 
on his daily letters, his mother was satisfied that he 
should do so — more than satisfied, indeed, because his 
willingness to undertake the journey showed a hopeful 
increase of strength and energy. One or two of her 
letters to him, and several of his to her, are given here. 
Two of his, containing an impression of a bull-fight, were 
arranged by Mrs Oliphant, and printed in the ' Spectator,' 
to the great amusement of their author. 

To F. R. Oliphant (then at Bordighera). 

Windsor, 1st March. 
. . . There is nothing new to tell you, nothing to say, 
except that I continue appallingly busy, and that now 



352 



LETTERS. 



[188S. 



I have got well into the middle of the Principal's Life 
it is constantly becoming more difficult. There are end- 
less allusions to public matters which I don't under- 
stand, and even in his own actual doings many things 
in which I miss the dear padrona's help. I have just 
been describing the beginning of our friendship, hers and 
mine, which was one day when we went up, she and 
I alone with you little children, to Whistlefield, and 
sat and talked there while you played. You were only 
a baby, so you can't recollect, though I think you were 
there in Jane's capacious arms. Jock Tulloch was one 
of the party, then a boy very like Jack Tarver, and I 
think Sara. It all came back so clearly to my mind 
and caught my breath. Your sister with her bonny 
curls would be one of the chief. Somehow I never, as 
you may have noticed, can call her by her name. . . . 

The weather here is bright enough, with a sprinkling 
of snow on the ground, but very cold. I don't think 
I ever saw snow come down in the same way — a few 
large flakes now and then, quite promiscuous, as though 
they were sailing about in the air for their own pleasure. 

I have just got a note from Lady Cloncuny asking 
me to go with her on Saturday to a matinee of Coquelin's, 
who has just come over to give some performances before 
going to America. I suppose I will go, though I can very 
little afford the time, but a little play perhaps is essential 
now and then. I have lost my morning correcting the 
proof of the first part of a story which embodies a great 
many of my own thinkings in recent times. It is to be in 
the 1 Cornhill,' only two numbers. I am afraid you will 
not like it, or at least that it will vex you. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mrs Oliphant. 

Hotel Victoria, San Remo, March 12. 
... I heard a great deal about the earthquake. . . . 
I am sorry to say the priest at Bajardo fled and left 
his people, not through fear so much as from horror 
and dismay; for he had seen such an awful sight as 



1888.] THE HORRORS OF AN EARTHQUAKE. 353 

it is to be hoped no man will be called upon to see 
twice. As he was saying mass, he heard a great noise 
behind him, and turned round in time to see the roof 
falling on his unhappy congregation. The church was 
so full that there were people even in the side chapels, 
and most of these got off with more or less severe 
hurts. But of those who were in the body of the 
church hardly one escaped with his life, and the priest 
seems to have gone mad in a way with the horror of 
the sight. Two hundred and forty people were killed 
in that small village. The priest of Pompeiana did 
not fly. He too was singing mass when the earth- 
quake came. He too heard the awful sound, and look- 
ing round, saw two great rifts in the roof, and his 
congregation shrieking and terrified. He called to them, 
and checked the panic that was beginning. Then he 
said, "We must not cease worshipping God. He has 
just shown great mercy to us, and we must give thanks 
to Him. But it is not necessary that you should stay 
within these walls. Go and kneel outside, and I will 
go on with the mass here." And the people went out, 
and the brave priest was left alone in the half - ruined 
church with the God who might in a moment either 
destroy the place utterly, or destroy all else and leave 
that untouched. The people knelt outside, trying to 
follow the mass they could indistinctly hear sung before 
the altar inside, with their minds filled with distracting 
doubts and fears whether they should ever see their 
priest come out again. When the mass was finished 
with all due reverence, that faithful servant of God 
came away from his finished duty, and not till then 
the second shock came. No men were killed in 
Pompeiana. Almost all the houses were destroyed, 
and the people had to live in cattle-sheds in the fields ; 
but not a man lost heart, and they went quietly to 
work to help each other in setting up their houses 
again and giving help to others who had suffered more ; 
and so they were found in great distress for want of 

z 



354 



LETTERS. 



many necessaries, but resolute and cheerful under the 
guidance of that trusty leader by another equally true 
and valiant champion, the Scotch minister of San Rerao, 
who was the life and soul of the parties who went out 
to help the sufferers, and who, together with his wife, 
simply hunted all the valleys within reach to find one 
man more who might be helped. Other stories I heard, 
some heroic and some comic. There was one small 
household in San Remo who had as their only servant 
a woman engaged by the day, who came every morning 
and brought the water that was needed for the house- 
hold, and also brought the bread which she had pre- 
viously bought in the town. The earthquake came 
early in the morning, and the house in which this 
woman lived was entirely ruined, the roof falling in 
and partly crushing it. The woman crept out through 
a fissure in the fallen roof, went down into the town, 
and bought the bread, and drew the water, and came 
to do her work for her employers just as if nothing 
had happened. One very amusing story was that of 
an English officer who fled immediately after the earth- 
quake by the first train. He didn't even wait to try 
and get his things back from the wash, though they 
included some shirts of a peculiarly fine make by which 
he set great store. He just left word for the laundress 
to send them to the British Consulate, where he would 
send for them. The laundress did so, but they arrived 
at an unlucky moment, just when the contributions of 
old sheets and shirts and linen of all kinds were being 
sent in from all quarters for the benefit of the sufferers 
from the earthquake, and the poor gentleman's beautiful, 
costly shirts were just torn up with the rest to make 
bandages for the wounded peasants at Bajardo or some 
such purpose. 

F. R. Oliphmt to Mrs Oliphant. 

Grand Hotel des Quatre Nations, Barcelona, April x 
... I have been able to get no certain news about 



1888.] A HOSTILE CRITICISM OF SPAIN. 355 



the poor picador who was wounded yesterday, but I 
believe he is still alive, and in that case he will very 
likely recover. . . . You will excuse my mind being still 
full of the bull-fight. ... It is a horrible and degrading 
sport, which should be put down by force. It is truly 
worthy of the one European nation which still regards, 
as it always has, its enemies as its enemies in the plural, 
— not "the enemy," as we say, but "the enemies," as 
the old heathens said. Among this savage and brutal 
nation alone is the murder of a single enemy considered 
a good service. It is useless to say this is prejudice: 
it has been proved again and again. Did you ever hear 
of the heroic young Colonel Lefebvre, who was one 
of the most brilliant French cavalry officers in the 
Peninsular war? His gallantry was so splendid that 
the British soldiers cheered him as he charged them 
at the head of his regiment, and no one would shoot 
him of the bold adversaries who met him face to face. 
They really took care to spare him. But one day 
at the head of a furious charge his horse carried him 
into the British ranks dead, shot in the side by a 
guerilla who was hidden behind a tree. Sergeant 
Lawrence tells a story of seeing a crowd in a Portu- 
guese village. On going up, he found two wounded 
French soldiers surrounded by a circle of flaming trusses 
of straw, peasants standing round these again with 
pitchforks to prevent the wounded men crawling out 
of the flaming circles, which were bound to kill them 
sooner or later. They are an awful people. Of course 
they had suffered horribly at the hands of the French, 
but they, more than perhaps any other nation, are 
wanting in sympathy for a man or beast who is 
hurt. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 28M June. 

I write just a word to tell you that I have finished the 
biography of Principal Tulloch. It is possible that there 
may be a good deal of correction (upon the type-written 



356 



LETTERS. 



[1888. 



copy) yet to be added, for my knowledge of Scotch public 
questions is naturally very imperfect, and I await in- 
formation on various points. But the book is now 
written, and as soon as I have added what may be 
necessary in a careful revision after consultation with the 
competent authorities, who are now at work upon it, it 
will be ready to go to press. ... It has taken me a 
much longer time and more labour than I calculated 
upon. Indeed I have spent more of both upon it than 
I did on the Life of Montalembert. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Haslemere, 28M August. 

... I am here for a few days in Mrs R.'s very orig- 
inal establishment, with nearly thirty most rosy ruddy 
children, very unlike the slums of London, running about 
everywhere. They are in such good order that they are 
really no trouble to anybody, and interfere very little with 
the economy of the house. I never saw such a wonderful 
manager as she is — Don Quixote mixed up with a Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer. . . . 

Our winter movements are not at all decided. I am 
talking half in joke and half in earnest of getting half- 
a-dozen friends to join in taking a house on the Riviera, 
where we could live in a sort of co-operative way ; for 
since Cecco, I fear, will not be passed by Sir Andrew 
Clark, and will therefore have nothing to keep him 
back, it will no doubt be better for him to escape the 
next spring as he did the last. But we should not in 
any case leave till January, and I can't afford wandering 
about in hotels, so this is all completely uncertain. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 30M August. 

. . . Very many thanks for your kind invitation to 
Cecco and myself. . . . Could you introduce us to any 
Edinburgh antiquarian who would help us to see some 
holes and corners out of the beaten track ? If Mr 
Cosmo Innes had been still alive I should have applied 
to him. . . . 



1 888.] 



DEATH OF LAURENCE OLIPHANT. 



357 



But, oh, what is this dreadful business about Laurence 
Oliphant ? Married after publishing his book to convince 
the world if possible that marriage should not be, and 
with such a wife so lately buried ! Has he ventured to 
explain it to you ? I suppose he has gone through the 
form merely to make it possible that he should have 
a companion and caretaker, for I can't suppose he is 
contradicting all the tenor of so many years at his age, 
— but he ought not to have done it anyhow. I shall be 
very curious to hear what you know. 

The following letter refers to the death of Laurence 
Oliphant, which took place on December 23, 1888 : — 

Windsor, Dec. 29. 

I have been quite anticipating your letter, and will give 
all the skill I possess to making such a sketch as I can of 
Laurence Oliphant. His religious side, however, is to 
me of the very greatest interest, and I hope you will not 
object to a tolerably full description of it — not in its last 
development, with which I have little sympathy, but in 
the fundamental impulse which went before. To have 
seen so little of him as I did, I happen to have seen him 
at moments and under circumstances which will give me 
considerable power, I think, in elucidating his life. I am 
very sorry that I did not go to Twickenham to see him, 
as I had almost done, after I saw you last. I think I 
could do this piece of work best by writing in the first 
person and with my own name, unless you have any 
objection. I object to it on principle myself, but, as a 
point of fact, it would be less easy to make an interesting 
portrait of him in any other way. 

The years do indeed grow sadder and sadder as they go 
on, and more still at my age than at yours. I begin to 
watch them go, wondering if I shall see another end, and 
not very much wishing to do so, if truth must be told ; 
for my path is clouded with anxieties and many disap- 



358 



LETTERS. 



[1888. 



pointments, which I should once have thought insupport- 
able, but which now, in the dreary philosophy of use, 
have come to be accepted more or less quietly. I wish 
you and yours all that is good, as well as everything pros- 
perous and pleasant for the new year. Will you give my 
love to your sisters, and beg them to accept my affec- 
tionate good wishes, though at second hand? I have 
caught another desperate cold, and even an additional 
letter becomes a burden in such circumstances. I am 
starting for Paris with Denny on the 3rd if all is well, in- 
tending to leave her there to study for six months in 
an artist's studio. Do you know any nice people in Paris 
where there might be daughters who would notice a 
young girl left by herself? My acquaintances in Paris 
are now few, and the Canroberts are away in Mentone 
with their delicate boy. I go on to Beaulieu on the 9th 
with the rest of my party. If possible I will finish the 
article on L. Oliphant before I leave here; if not I will 
send it to you from Paris. I cannot find the * Times* 
which contained the notice of him, that particular number 
having got lost, so that I should be glad if you would 
send it; but I think I have got all the rest that are of 
any consequence. 



1889.] A CHRONICLE OF MISFORTUNE. 359 



1889. 

The journey to Beaulieu was interrupted in a rather 
tragical manner, as the following letter explains. Cyril's 
health had been very uncertain. 

To Mr Blackwood. Paris, 10th January, 

I have a chronicle of misfortune to give you : in the 
first place, to explain why my article is late. I had 
hoped by this time to have been sending it to you from 
Beaulieu. We were all at the station on Wednesday 
night ready to start, our luggage all in the train, and 
ourselves eating something in the restaurant before 
setting out, when Cyril became suddenly and violently 
ill. This was about half an hour before the train 
started. I had no thoughts for anything but the sufferer, 
but Cecco saw the rest of our party off and then came 
and joined me. ... I have now sent for an English 
doctor, who will, I hope, remove him to his own house ; 
and if this gentleman gives a good account of him, as 
I hope, I will leave him in his hands and go on to 
Beaulieu to-morrow night. You may imagine what a 
dreadful business this has been — the horrible shock and 
alarm. • . • 

The article on Laurence Oliphant is nearly finished, 
and leaving here to-morrow night, as I must do, if 
nothing very bad occurs, I hope to be able to send it off 
to you on Tuesday at latest. Cecco's proofs are in the 
same state, but the proof of course is not so urgent as 
the MS. I am sure you will be sorry for us. Cyril is 
very weak and exhausted, but quite himself, and I trust 
will now go on well. We are in a dreadful French house, 
where there is not even a chambermaid ; and our luggage 



36o 



LETTERS. 



[1889. 



is all gone, so that a clean collar seems to me the greatest 
luxury. 

I will write with the article, I hope, on Tuesday. 

VILLA DE ForestA, BeaULIEU, 15M January. 

I sent you my article in a great hurry to-day with no 
time to say anything. I hope you will like it. It is more 
a reminiscence than anything else, and it is rather re- 
markable, having really seen so little of Laurence Oli- 
phant as I did, how completely my personal recollections 
follow the course of, and more or less elucidate the most 
interesting portion of, his life. 

To Dr A. K. H. Boyd. [Jan. or Feb.] 

I have just been reading your paper about "Taking 
in Sail." I think I have told you before how much I 
feel with and sympathise in your afternoon musings — 
the subdued thoughts that come to us with the decline 
of the day. It is only this sympathy which makes me 
write now. I wish I could take in sail, but it is not 
easy. I almost think sometimes that to know the limit 
of years to which one had to reach, and so be able 
to regulate one's work to get as much done as possible 
without the vague horror as to years that may come after 
all ought to be over, would be a comfort ; for at the end 
of all things the work is almost the only thing — is it not ? 
— in which there is satisfaction. Our children grow as old 
as ourselves, and friendship has its limitations, and the 
soul, even when most surrounded with apparent company, 
must live so much alone. Your suggestion that some- 
thing very good should happen to us as we get old, once 
in every three years is delightful, but almost ironical; 
this does not seem to me at least the end of life at which 
to expect anything good, but I hope that perhaps my ex- 
perience is not that of others. The one good thing that 
I am conscious of is the increased tolerance — nay, enjoy- 
ment — of the loneliness which is inevitable, and the great, 
calm, all -sustaining sense of a divine Unseen, a silent 



1889.] THE PHILOSOPHY OF GROWING OLD. 36 1 

companion, God walking in the cool of the garden, which, 
after all, is the best. 

Forgive me this return for your musings. I don't my- 
self at all dislike the sensation and sentiment of getting 
old, and in many things I enter very fully into what you 
say on these subjects. 

I have been here with all my belongings for the greater 
part of the winter, with January like June, and beds of 
violets and roses all through the dark weather, but the 
spring a little uncertain and trying even here. 

To Mr Blackwood. Bbaulieu, 4M March. 

... It has occurred to me that it might be worth 
while to publish the article on L. Oliphant a little en- 
larged as a small volume. What do you think of this? 
... I should add a greater detail of facts, and some 
criticism of his literary work, if you approved of the idea. 
... I heard a new piece of information about him 
on Saturday from Baron de Billing, a man high up in 
the French diplomatic service, and of whom people speak 
as future ambassador to St James's. He told me that 
it was M. Thiers who was really the cause of L. O.'s 
removal from Paris as * Times' correspondent. Do you 
know if there is any truth in this ? M. de Billing asserted 
it most positively, and said I might quote him to that 
effect. Mr Hamilton Aid6, who happened to sit on my 
other side, contradicted the statement, but only on his 
own authority. Perhaps you know which is to be be- 
lieved. This took place at a magnificent luncheon at 
Monte Carlo given us by Mr Somerset Beaumont, at 
which Christine Nilsson was one of the guests. Thus 
we get glimpses of the world from time to time. 

The following note from Cyril Oliphant to Mr Black- 
wood refers to his volume on De Musset for the Foreign 
Classics series. The book was very long in hand, and was 
only published a week or two before Cyril's death in 1890. 



362 



LETTERS. 



[1889. 



Cyril F. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Beaulibu, April 1. 

I send you the first three chapters, rather more than 
half, of the long-considered book on De Musset. The 
first chapter was written in one of my moods for writing 
small, and I found I had carried the fancy so far that 
I thought it best to have it copied by a type-writer. Of 
course this should have been sent to you long ago, but 
our changes of place, as well as the recent weakness of 
my health, have put grave obstacles in the way of my 
settling down to anything. I am still a little uncertain 
about the amount of what I have written and am going 
to write. I do not propose to add more than two chap- 
ters — one on the lighter plays and one on the prose works 
— to the three I send you, and I should very much like 
to have a proof of these as soon as possible, so as to 
be able to judge whether I am writing too little or too 
much, and guide my future efforts accordingly. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, Jun* 1. 

May I ask if you have yet had time to look at the 
article on James I. which I sent you some time ago ? I 
am very anxious to know whether you think it would be 
suitable for the Magazine. If so, I hoped it might form 
the first of a kind of series of articles on early Scottish 
history and literature, which would take the place of the 
series of volumes which I suggested to you, but which 
you did not think could have any success in that longer 
form. As Magazine articles they would more easily com- 
mand attention, and I think could not fail to be interest- 
ing. Those articles of Mr Masson's from the ' Scotsman 9 
which you sent my mother expressed the want of such 
a series, and it is obvious that if any one can take it up, 
it can only be the Magazine. In the hope that this idea 
may find favour with you, I have already written the 
greater part of an article on the poet Henryson, a subject 
of great interest and very little known. I am conse- 
quently rather anxious to know what you think about the 
James I., on which by itself I spent a great deal of time 



1889.] THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER. 363 

and trouble, and whether you think it would be suitable 
for the Magazine. 

We are having lovely weather here, and should have 
a fine fourth of June, which, of course, is always our 
great day. Nothing has been heard in these parts for 
some time but controversy as to whether the Queen was 
or was not to be present It seems finally that she is, 
spite of reports to the contrary. We simple people of 
Windsor are easily interested. 

The article on Henryson the poet appeared in 1 Black- 
wood ' in the following year. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 4/* June. 

. . . After a conversation with Mrs Wynne Finch I 
put aside the idea of enlarging the article as quite in- 
adequate, but hesitated a good deal about undertaking a 
larger work, feeling that it would cost me an amount of 
time and trouble which I could not afford to give except 
for a quite different remuneration. It of course remains 
to be seen whether Mrs Rosamund Oliphant will allow 
me to use the letters and papers of which Mrs Waller 
tells me there is a very large collection. Even without 
this I should be able to produce a romance of biography 
which ought, I think, to interest the public in a very high 
degree, but it would be the work of months. . . . 

I shall have to see all sorts of people on account of the 
book, and take a great deal of trouble, and my impression 
is that a real account of such a remarkable life would be 
very interesting to the public. . . . My own ideas are 
rather vague as to what size the book would come to, 
also now disturbed by some doubt as to what Mrs Wynne 
Finch's intervention will come to. . . . There is, how- 
ever, no hurry about a decision. I should like to know 
definitely what is to be had of the letters at Haifa, and to 
see what comes from different quarters, and then perhaps 
we may be able to come to some mutual agreement on 
the subject. 



364 



LETTERS. 



Windsor, 28/* June. 
I don't at all know the books you refer to — I have not 
seen any of them. Mr Barrie's ' Auld Licht Idylls,' &c, 
I think exceedingly clever. Indeed there seems to me 
genius in them, though the Scotch is, as you say, much 
too provincial. If you will send me the other books, I 
will carry out your wishes, if my opinion agrees with 
yours ; but Barrie I must applaud, for I think his faculty 
is great. . . . He came here to see me one day. I 
have been rather nervous ever since, lest I should see my- 
self in a newspaper, but he has been merciful. 



1890.] 



JOHN KNOX. 



365 



189O. 

To F. R. Oliphant. Windsor, Feb. 17. 

... I am correcting the type -written part of my 
' Edinburgh/ half writing it over again, as I do not like 
the John Knox bit at all. To tell the truth, I liked John 
Knox so much less in going in to him than I had done at 
a respectful distance, that it was rather hard work to 
keep up a little show of approbation. He was a most 
intolerant bigot, and as dour and obstinate as the nether 
millstone. The metaphor is broken, but you will under- 
stand. I don't mean to say he is not interesting, and his 
position often exceedingly humorous, though all the 
surroundings are so grim. • . . 

Windsor, Feb, 27. 
... I wish, my dear, that you were less distrustful 
of yourself. Every one must have felt the same painful 
wandering of the mind, especially at the most solemn 
moments. It has been my plague all my life. What has 
been my consolation for a very long time is the conviction 
that God understands what we mean, or what we want to 
mean, so much better than any one mortal can do. I have 
the most perfect reliance upon His sympathy, so that I 
almost think He must be more indulgent to us than we 
are to ourselves, and smile at things that horrify us, 
knowing in His great understanding and tenderness all 
about it, and that we prefer the good even when we don't 
succeed in doing it. Don't think lighter things, or the 
lightest of all, without use, and have confidence in our 
heavenly Father as, and far more than, you have confi- 
dence in me, for He will never misunderstand you. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, utf March. 

Many thanks for your kind wish to see us, and I wish 



366 



LETTERS. 



very much I could have gone to you before leaving ; but 
it is unfortunately impossible. I am up to my eyes in 
things to do, work to finish, and arrangements to make. 
How we are to manage to get under weigh by Monday 
morning is more than I can tell ; but I suppose that we 
shall, as we generally do, though it always seems impos- 
sible the day before. ... I am starting with a good 
deal of alarm both for the sea and the land, and a few 
thoughts of the possibility of never coming back again, 
such as are natural to a woman of my years. But the in- 
ducement to make the journey is strong, and I hope that 
by the blessing of God I may live and get home again, 
and see you and all my friends. All the same, I should 
have liked very much to see you before going away. 

I have the very best news of Cecco. The renewed irri- 
tation in the lung, about which Dr Maclagan was so 
serious, has, he is told by a specialist in lung diseases 
whom he has consulted at Hyeres, quite passed away, 
and he is doing as well as possible. We meet him at 
Turin on Thursday week, and we embark at Brindisi on 
Saturday 22nd. Burn a candle for us, that we may have 
a good voyage. I will write, if all is well, from Jeru- 
salem. . • . 

Cyril too is keeping quite well, and my anxieties on 
his account are to a considerable extent relieved. 

Mr A. W. Kinglake to Mrs Oliphant. 

17 Bayswater Terrace, W., March 19. 

Dear Mrs Oliphant, — It is with ceaseless admiration 
that I have read * The Duke's Daughter.' 

My remembrance of what you had told me respecting 
the origin of your inclination to undertake the narrative 
put me into the mood for studying it, if so one may speak, 
instead of too placidly " reading " your delightful pages, 
and the effect of this special care was such as to make 
me think more — more even than ever before — of what — 
distinguished from "fancy" — I should call that sound, 



1890.] 



JERUSALEM. 



367 



healthy, that strong Imagination of yours which tells 
you, and lets you tell others, the very, very truth. 

To compare the few words I uttered to you in the 
course of perhaps some three minutes with your beauti- 
ful narrative is to make one remember that Shakespeare 
would look at some obsolete tale without perhaps any in- 
terest for any other live mortal, and then build on it or 
round it, a mighty work of genius. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Jerusalem, 9M April. 

My dear Cousin Annie, — Madge, I think, wrote from 
Cairo to tell you of our safe and pleasant voyage to Alex- 
andria — that is to say, it was quite pleasant so far as 
calm weather was concerned, and I did not suffer in the 
least, nor did either of the boys. Madge was a little bad, 
but not much to speak of. I don't think, however, that 
I could be reconciled to a long sea voyage : the great 
monotony, the ceaseless round of the machinery, the 
longing one has to be quiet for a moment, to stop still 
and not feel the throbbing and swaying, get quite too 
much for me. I feel as if I could not put up with it for a 
moment longer, which is the most childish of sentiments, 
yet a very true one. 

And so here we are in Jerusalem ! It is a wonderful 
place — wonderfully little changed in sentiment, I should 
think, since our Lord trod those solemn narrow streets, 
which probably would be filled with quite a similar crowd, 
strangers of all kinds, gazing and gaping when He was 
led through to His crucifixion. I insisted upon going 
along the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday, following what 
are supposed to have been His steps. I don't know that 
I could have done it had it not been for the boys, who 
took me by the elbows, one on each side, and almost 
carried me along. It was very deeply touching to toil 
along the laborious stony way, and to think, if not of 
what He felt, which is above our thoughts, yet of what 
Mary must have been feeling, and the others who were 
following through all the crowd of wandering strangers, 



368 



LETTERS. 



and all the eager townsfolk taking sides for and against 
Jesus of Nazareth. The throng of Arabs, Jews, blacks — 
every conceivable kind of people, no doubt — must have 
been much the same. We only, unborn as then, so to 
speak, were new to the place. I envied the pilgrims who 
went along kneeling at the stations, kissing the stones. 
One would have been glad to have done it, to have 
been able to do it. My great pleasure is to see the poor 
Russians, shoals of them, peasants of the poorest class, 
who throng everywhere with a sort of passionate devotion 
in their faces, kissing the sacred stones as they might do 
a dear child, again and again. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is too confusing to 
be impressive. It is supposed to cover the site both of 
the Crucifixion and of the tomb ; but there are many con- 
flicting ideas, and these places do not feel like the real 
ones, covered as they are with tawdry shrines, and every 
kind of poor tinsel lamp and decoration. The recent 
explorers have a theory that the real place of Golgotha 
was a mound or little hill, most curiously like a skull in 
its formation, and which stands bare under the sky, not 
built upon at all. It was the Jewish place of execution — 
that is universally acknowledged. And underneath this 
hill, at a little distance, is a wild forlorn garden, and in it 
a tomb — not indeed a tomb new in which no man had yet 
been laid, but old, old, dark with the dust of centuries, 
and sunk under the heaps of rubbish that have invaded 
everything, yet so much more affecting, so wonderfully 
different from the feelings called forth by the Holy 
Sepulchre — so called — one cannot help wishing that this 
may be the true place. 

We have been also at Gethsemane, a bright little garden 
full of flowers, but so possibly it might have been in the 
old sacred time. There are some very old olive-trees, 
and it lies low on the side of Olivet, looking up to the city 
walls. Another most affecting spot was the turn of the 
road where our Lord, coming from Bethany, paused when 



189a] 



BETHLEHEM. 



369 



the view of Jerusalem burst upon Him, as it does where 
the pathway sweeps round the hill, and wept over the city 
which would not consent to be saved. But indeed there 
is scarcely a corner at which there is not some sacred 
association. 

Bethlehem, where we were yesterday, was very delight- 
ful, a little city on a hill — Christian — the women pretty 
creatures with smiling uncovered faces and a sort of inno- 
cent happy air about. The place of the Nativity is indeed 
built over and made into shrines and chapels ; but the 
little inn, chiefly hewn out in the rock, as is still common, 
can be easily traced, and the little alcove where one can 
so easily believe Mary to have been laid, and the manger 
where the Child was placed, seem so credible and natural 
that one is happy in believing. The place is supposed by 
united and invariable tradition to be quite authentic. 

I am bearing the journey perfectly well, not feeling the 
fatigue very much. I have decided not to attempt riding 
at all, but to have a palanquin for Galilee. The others 
are quite well. It is a little dreary being here by myself. 
We leave Jaffa on Monday next for Haifa, Nazareth, and 
the Lake of Galilee, if all is well. Should Cecco not feel 
equal to any more riding he will return to Italy, but I hope 
this may not be the case. We expect to be in Constant- 
inople about the 5th or 6th May, and I should be very 
glad of a letter there to Cook's Tourist office. 

I hope you are all well and enjoying the spring. Of 
course it is full summer here so far as the heat is con- 
cerned, but the country is very desolate, stony, and grey, 
though the lower slopes of the hills where there is grass 
are scarlet with anemones of the finest growth, and 
clusters of cyclamen grow in many of the crevices of the 
rocks. The birds all about Jerusalem are wonderful, 
chiefly swallows, and they are in all the churches, flying 
about and adding a great charm. " The swallow findeth 
a place for herself, even Thine altars : " it is perfectly 
true. 

2 A 



370 



LETTERS. 



[1890. 



To Mrs Tarver. Jerusalem, 12M April. 

I have been a long time in writing, which is partly 
because there has been so little time, and partly because 
the post is only once a-week, so that if one misses one 
there is no way of rectifying till another seven days are 
past. We are now just on the eve of leaving Jerusalem, 
and this great end of the journey is accomplished. It 
seems wonderful ever to get here at all, and now it seems 
equally wonderful that it should be all over, and that to- 
morrow our expedition here will be a thing of the past. 
We have been in Jerusalem eleven days, and seen a great 
deal, and I am not disappointed. In some of the holy 
places, indeed, it is difficult to feel all the solemnity of 
the associations, but with many others this is not the 
case ; and the wonderful little inn at Bethlehem, though 
enshrined in a church, and the country road that leads 
to Bethany, and the Mount of Olives, and the splendid 
platforms of the old Temple, where the Mosque of Omar 
now stands, and all the other places which one is sure 
must have been trodden by those blessed feet, are impress- 
ive and touching in the highest degree. To come round 
a sudden corner and realise that there our Lord paused 
and gazed, and wept over Jerusalem, is such a feeling as 
needs no words to tell. The grey walls, the flat house- 
tops, the towers of Sion, the Golden Gate (now built 
up, because Messiah is to enter there when He comes 
again), breaking the long line of the Temple walls, all 
must be much as they were when He looked upon them. 
And Gethsemane lies underneath. It is a wonderful 
sensation. 

All our journey has been prosperous : the sea was quiet, 
the landing at Jaffa easy, we have got one of the best of 
dragomen, and altogether would be very well off, if it were 
not that I am sadly disappointed about Cecco, who, though 
they say his chest is much better, has grown so dreadfully 
thin that it makes my heart sick every time I look at him. 
. . . This has been the terrible drawback of this time, 
which otherwise would have been all we could desire. 



THE SCOT ABROAD. 



371 



We leave to-morrow for Jaffa, and go on by steamer to 
Haifa on Monday, where we begin the most novel mode 
of travelling, camping out and travelling — the others on 
horseback, I in a palanquin. This will last for ten days, 
ending at Damascus, and from there we drive to Beyrout 
and take steamer for Constantinople. We hope to get 
there about the 5th or 6th of May, and then home with 
very little delay. 

This day has been a very fatiguing one. We were all 
over the Mosque of Omar in the morning, as it has been 
closed till to-day, and then went to the Holy Sepulchre to 
see the so-called miracle of the Holy Fire. The sight 
was a most extraordinary one. If you see Mr Holmes, 
tell him that his Greek Patriarch has been exceedingly 
civil, and done a great deal for us, though he has not been 
well enough to receive us. . . . 

You will have got back again probably before this 
reaches you, as it may not leave Jerusalem till the 16th. 
One post a-week only ! and not a book-shop in the place, 
which, as we have read all our books, is rather dreadful. 
Nor, I fear, is there any prospect of getting any, or of 
seeing a newspaper for a fortnight at least. Cyril, Cecco, 
and Madge went to Jericho and the Dead Sea in the be- 
ginning of the week, which took three days, during which 
time I was alone ; and save for occasional flirtations with 
the American Consul and a Greek archimandrite, I don't 
know what I should have done. All the same, the hotel 
is half full of Scotch ministers and people from Dundee ! 

To Miss Oliphant. Haifa Encampment, Wednesday, 16th April. 

My dearest Denny, — I am writing to you from our 
first encampment close to Haifa. We have our tents 
pitched in a field with a beautiful view, just under our 
eyes, of the bay of Haifa, the white town and castle of 
Acre — besieged, Heaven knows how often, in all the cen- 
turies from prehistoric times till now — lying on the other 
side, and the mountains of Galilee behind. We came 
from Jaffa to Haifa yesterday on a perfectly smooth sea, 



372 



LETTERS. 



[1890. 



and landed here at ten at night in boats. The pushing 
off from the big steamer in the dark (it was quite dark, 
the sky clouded, and the stars invisible), with a tremen- 
dous jabber of the boatmen, was rather terrifying ; at least 
I confess that I was frightened and gripped Cecco, who 
was sitting next to me, hard. The lights of the little 
town guided us, and the water was like glass, but other- 
wise the sea all around was as black as could be, and 
looked like a mysterious infinite all behind and around 
us : however, we got in all right, chiefly by Jamal's good 
management, who is a treasure of a dragoman. I say he 
is my idea of a little Providence, for whatever we want 
we have only to refer to him, and all is supplied in a 
moment, or as near a moment as Eastern habits permit. 
He is a fine, grave, serious man of forty-five or so, and 
seems completely up to everything. It was a little 
strange last night sleeping in a tent for the first time, 
but we were quite comfortable, and took to it as if it were 
the most natural thing in the world, which is what one 
so easily gets to do with any exceptional circumstances. 
It rained, unfortunately, and blew a little, and it is still 
very windy and cloudy to-day. One kept wondering what 
would happen if the tent blew down; but this was evi- 
dently a thing which it had not the least intention of 
doing. We got to the tents from the landing in a rough 
sort of country carriage preceded by men with lanterns. 
It was past ten at night, and we were by way of having 
dined at five o'clock on the boat. I expected nothing 
except perhaps a biscuit when we got to the camp, 
but lo! there was a good dinner or supper waiting for 
us, to which we did much justice before going to bed. 
I think Cecco is a trifle better. His spirits are so, and 
that is always a good test, and he eats fairly well, and 
coughs scarcely at all. If only he were not so awfully 
thin! but I hope that this outdoor life may do him 
good. 

We have been to-day to the Fried hof, where Alice Oli- 
phant lies. Madge made a white wreath and I a red 



189a] AN ACCIDENT ON MOUNT CARMEL. 373 



cross, entirely red, to lay on the grave ; and afterwards 
we saw their house, a house full of nice airy rooms, 
which I am sure they must have made the most cheerful 
place. I thought I could see her flitting in and out, on 
household cares intent. You remember what a taste for 
cooking and managing she had. Round about their house 
are the prim, red-tiled houses of the German colony, look- 
ing like a village emigrated bodily from the Fatherland, 
and everybody about is German. 

Since we came here last night another encampment 
has been set up beside us, which is said to belong to a 
father with seven daughters. It is bigger, but not nearly 
so well placed as ours. I must try and get Tiddy to take 
a photograph of our encampment. ... We are on a 
sort of natural platform, the field sloping downwards just 
beyond. There is a tent for Tids and Cecco, one for 
Madge and me, the dining- and sitting-room tent, the 
kitchen tent, and another big one beyond, which I sup- 
pose is for Jamal and the servants. There are lanterns 
hung round at night, and I think two of the men watch. 
The horses, mules, &c, are in the field before us, in- 
creased now by a multitude of mules and donkeys, the 
beasts of burden of our neighbours, who, by the way, are 
just arriving. I am sitting out at the door of the tent 
watching them come in. 

This summer, after Mrs Oliphant's return from the Holy 
Land, was one of renewed anxiety. It is probable that 
though she had enjoyed it much, she had also suffered 
a good deal from the heat and fatigue ; and a very dis- 
agreeable accident (to call it by its mildest name) which 
she met with must have shaken her nerves. She was 
being carried down a slope on Mount Carmel, the younger 
members of the party being on horseback a little in front, 
when the pole of her chair broke, and she was thrown to 
the ground. Though she fell so as to get scratches 



374 



LETTERS. 



[189a 



about her head and face, she had no actual damage, 
except indeed the jar to her nerves. She was much 
more occupied with her son's ailments, however, than 
her own, and it is in reference to them that she writes to 
Mrs Coghill : " Won't you come down here if you are in 
town ? I should like so much to have a talk with you 
over everything: there is scarcely any one else with 
whom I can give myself this indulgence," 

On the 7th of August, when Cecco had been sent away 
to the Engadine, she writes to the same correspondent : — 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 7M August, 

. . . Cecco I don't know what to say about. He 
startled me by saying he was going on a mountain ex- 
pedition, after complaining of the almost impossibility of 
going uphill at all on account of his breath, and I fear it 
was more than he ought to have done — and he is very 
impatient of being questioned. I am more anxious than 
words can say, but say very little about it, and try to be 
patient. God knows whether I have yet accomplished 
the tale of my sorrows. 

Cecco in the meantime was undergoing a sort of Arctic 
experience, which could not have been pleasant, and was 
certainly not beneficial. 

One of the notes in which Mr Kinglake expressed his 
warm admiration of Mrs Oliphant's work belongs to this 
date, and must have given her pleasure. 

Mr A.W. Kinglake to Mrs Oliphant. 

17 Bayswater Terrace, W., August 25. 

Dear Mrs Oliphant, — It is so long since I heard 
from you that I venture to ask how you are. 

Some little time since, I had the good fortune to find 
that there was at least one of your delightful books which 
I had missed — I mean * In Trust ' — and I am only now 



189a] 



MOUNTAINS OF WORK. 



375 



towards the end of the second volume, I am greatly 
interested, and more than ever admiring the way in 
which your powerful yet truth-loving imagination proves 
able to deal with the mazes of Human Nature. — Believe 
me, dear Mrs Oliphant, most truly yours, 

A. W. Kinglake. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 28M August. 

I ought to have written sooner to announce my safe 
arrival at home, but I had to make such a leap among 
the lions of retarded work that I have scarcely had a 
moment to myself. I found Cyril not very well. He 
has run down somehow and got below par, as the doctors 
say, but he is now better again. And Cecco's letters are 
far from satisfactory. I feel as if he were coming back 
less well instead of better. God grant I may be wrong, 
but my life seems sometimes almost too full of anxieties 
to be borne. The little rest with you, though it does one 
so much good, perhaps makes the return for the moment 
more acute, I hope that in a week or so Cecco will be 
back, but I almost fear the sight of his dear thin hands. 
I am cheerful enough, you know, outwardly, and don't 
talk of my troubles, but they are very heavy and sore. 
The mountains of work I have to toil through are the 
best help I could have. 

It had always been the custom of the house at Windsor 
to keep the birthdays of the two brothers together. The 
dates were but three weeks apart. Cyril's fell on the 
16th of November, and sometimes that was the day 
chosen. That day, at any rate, had been always more 
or less a fete in the family circle, and it was no small 
shock to the one nearest to that circle, though no longer 
of it, and herself at the moment in deep grief, to receive 
on the 10th the following note — a mere cry of distress 
from the agonised mother : — 



376 



LETTERS. 



[1890. 



To Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, 3 a.m., grt November. 

Dear Cousin Annie, — You are in trouble, but in no 
such trouble as I am. My boy, my Tiddy is gone ! — a 
few hours ago — dead ! You will not believe it, nor can 
I. You will wonder at my writing to you myself, but 
I can't sleep or rest, and I can only talk of him — my 
bonny boy — my darling! I am like stone — I can't feel 
it — but it is true. — Your affec. 

Many of the letters conveying this sad news were 
naturally written by Cecco, in every emergency his 
mother's loving and dearly loved helper. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, Nov. ^ 

Dear Mr Blackwood, — I have to give you the terrible 
and unexpected intelligence of my brother's death, which 
occurred at one o'clock this morning, after a short and 
apparently unimportant illness. On Tuesday he was 
suffering from a very heavy cold, and complained of 
pains in his head; be then took to his bed and re- 
mained in a rather prostrate condition, but gave us 
no great alarm till Thursday, when there were several 
degrees of fever, and the doctor declared that he had 
congestion of the lungs. The fever subsided yesterday, 
but left him in a terribly low condition, and the ultimate 
cause of death was apparently suffocation through the 
obstruction of the passages by some matter which he 
was not strong enough to force up. The end was quite 
peaceful and (presumably) painless. Only yesterday 
morning he was well enough to read out to me a 
little notice of his ' De Musset ' which appeared in a 
Glasgow paper ; no one of us had any suspicion of 
what was at hand. My mother is in a terrible con- 
dition of grief, but bears it with her usual extraordinary 
strength and courage. She wishes me to ask you to 
break the news to your aunt, Miss Blackwood, who, I 
fear, will be much affected by the news. It seems 



1890.] 



DEATH OF CYRIL OLIPHANT. 



377 



almost impossible to realise what has happened. — I 
remain, yours sincerely, F. R. Oliphant. 

I am very glad that his ' De Musset ' had come out. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, Nov. ii. 

Many thanks for your telegram. I am requested by 
my mother to say that she is sending you the first 
part of Laurence Oliphant's Life for the press. ... I 
am going to take her with me to Davos, and my cousin 
Denny will go with us to look after her. . . . We leave 
here on Thursday, but shall be in England one day 
longer. 

I hear nothing but praise of my brother's ' De Musset ' 
here on all sides : I only wish he had had another chance 
of showing the singular grace and felicity which marked 
his verse translations. Indeed, he and I had already 
formed a plan of another work which would bring out 
this rare talent in the same way. 

M rs Oliphant to Mrs Harry Coghill. 

Bournemouth, November, 
... All is over. I am very quiet — I think unnaturally — 
I hope supernaturally so. All the time of the burying I 
thought I saw my Tiddy and Frank looking on, and was 
sustained as if they were holding me up. I would like 
to tell you all about it, but I cannot write. All his 
temptations and dangers are over, his feet are in a 
sure place, a better life has begun — that is what I think 
most. God bless my boy — life was hard upon him; so 
many people have written to me so sweetly and tenderly 
of him. 

I had to come here to see some people about Laurence 
Oliphant, and we are on our way, Denny and I with 
Cecco, to Davos, where we hope to arrive on Sunday. 
The address will be, H6tel Victoria, Davos-Platz. We 
shall not be back till May, I suppose, if all is well. 



378 



LETTERS. 



All was over. A career so brilliant in the hope and 
promise of its beginning had ended in barren disap- 
pointment. One little volume and a few verses were 
all that was left. Yet there are still some living who 
can testify that Mrs Oliphant's pride in her son, and 
ambition for him, were not unreasonable — who can 
recall the handsome brilliant boy, his lovely voice, his 
quick sympathies, his generosity in the small things of 
daily life. And it is they, alas! also who can recall 
the falling away from that bright youth — broken health, 
broken hopes, a dismal resignation to inactivity — which 
was more tragically painful than words can say to the 
mother whose toil had been so gladly given for him. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Davos-Platz, November y>. 

... I am glad to say that I have a most favourable 
opinion of Cecco here. . . . This is all the consolation 
I can now have in this life, and I thank God for it. 

If it had been possible to have published the *De 
Musset ' book a little sooner, that my dearest boy might 
have had the pleasure of seeing what was said of it, I 
should have been thankful ; but that is but a small 
matter amid all the anguish of this dreadful month. 
Please give your aunt my love, but tell her I cannot 
write. I can work enormously, which is the only opi- 
ate I can take, but no more. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. Davos- Platz, November 30. 

The reason of our leaving so soon was that Cecco had 
been ordered to go off in the beginning of the month, and 
was only hindered by some apparently accidental circum- 
stances from leaving on the morning of the day his dear- 
est brother was taken ill. I had no thought, after all that 
we could do was done for him, but to hasten Cecco's 
going and to go with him. We left the house with my 
good Esther in it, and there was no occasion for any delay. 



1890.] 



THE OPIATE OF WORK. 



379 



I fear there is little likelihood of letting it before April. I 
would with my own will go back to it no more. It is too 
full of associations, so many of them of pain and sorrow ; 
and I think that to sit alone at night at my work, and 
feel those two empty rooms blank and dark, would be 
more than I could bear. I find everything grow harder 
and more crushing as the heavy days go on. At first I 
had a kind of exaltation — of support, and consent to what 
God had done, believing, as I still believe, that for him, 
my dear boy, the only person to be considered in the 
matter, it was best. But nature will not be balked, and 
my heart is broken. 

I have, however, the only consolation this life can now 
give me in what is said about Cecco here. " The disease 
has passed off nicely," the doctor, the best here, a Swiss, 
says. He will not be so strong as other men for a while, 
but eventually he will be so. Koch's cure is the only 
matter that is thought of here, and it is now beginning to 
be applied; but the doctors say there is no occasion to 
try it for Cecco — that it is better to let well alone. This 
is, you may suppose, balm to my heart, as much as I am 
capable of, and I hope I shall live a year or two more to 
make things as smooth as I can for my Cecco. . . . 

I am simply working like, — I don't know any simile to 
use — working always; it is the only prop for my mind, 
and my body feels no harm. I am always quickened into 
intolerable life by calamity. It is impossible to conceive 
anything more miserable than this abode of snow, with all 
the poor people coughing their lives away. I sometimes 
think if I could hear the howl of the sea, and see a green 
world again, that it would do me a little good, but I don't 
imagine that or anything would make much difference. 

H6tkl Victoria, Davos-Platz, Dec. 2. 
My dear Blanche Cornish, — I cannot call you by 
any formal name. All your family have been so sweet 
and so dear to me in my anguish and trouble that I feel 
as if you belonged to me a little, and you know I told you 



3«o 



LETTERS. 



that you were the only person of whom my dearest boy 
thought when he was bringing souvenirs from the East. 
You were always kind to him, and remembered the glory 
of his youth when others thought it overcast. It is just 
a month now since he was taken ill, and I feared nothing 
— scarcely feared at all till within an hour of the end. I 
want you to ask Emily sometime when she sees Lord 
Tennyson to tell him that for the last two months of his 
life, I know not whether by any presentiment or not, my 
Cyril almost every evening sang Elaine's song, " Oh love, 
if Death be sweeter, let me die/' till it got so into our 
ears that we all kept singing it involuntarily, with no 
thought — God knows — in my mind of what it meant for 
him, though I often thought of it for myself. Perhaps it 
may interest the poet, who knows what this anguish is. 
My thoughts, which are always circling round and round 
the one subject, are twisted through and through with 
lines of " In Memoriam " ; and Elaine's song will always 
now be Cyril's song to me. It was not that he was 
melancholy or downcast, for that was not so. I wonder 
sometimes if it was one of those unconscious prayers 
which God seems to thrust into our hearts, and answers, 
though we don't know for what we are asking. This has 
been my case in the most wonderful and heartrending 
way. 

There is, thank God, the very best report of Cecco. 
The doctor here says he will, if all goes well, entirely 
recover his health and strength. But this Davos is a 
dreadful place — nothing but a vast shroud with black 
trees. 

I have heard from Mrs Symonds very kind, but asked 
her not to come to see me just yet. She will, I hope, 
before long. 

Give my love to all your dear people, and thanks a 
thousand times for all your sweet words about my dearest 
Cyril. His name opens up the fountains of tears, which 
at my age are deep down and hard to come. It is my 
indulgence in the night, when my Cecco and Denny have 



1890.] 



DAVOS-PLATZ. 



381 



gone to bed, to write a letter now and then and let them 
get vent, for the after-days are worse than the first. I 
thought I could almost see my dear boy arrive, in wonder 
and delight, upon the other shore, but I cannot follow 
him. I cannot get a step beyond, and that dreadful 
limitation and blank is terrible to me. 

God bless you, my dear. — Your affectionate, 

M. O. W. O. 

To Mrs Valentine. Davos-Platz, 15M December. 

. . . Our days are very monotonous : this is how we 
go through them. I have my breakfast before I get up, 
but the others go down-stairs for theirs. It is generally 
half-past ten or eleven before I am dressed and my room 
done. I sit on my balcony often when the last process 
is being gone through, and sometimes write there, with 
the sun pouring down upon me. I put my lace shawl 
over my cap to keep it off, and I often have not even 
a shawl on my shoulders, it is so warm, the sky an 
intense blue without a cloud ; and if you could imagine 
the unbroken expanse of snow, the dark pines, and the 
vulgar square dingy houses to be beautiful, it would be 
so. ... C. goes out for an hour's walk by the doctor's 
orders immediately after breakfast ; then he comes in and 
generally sits a little on the balcony, and goes out for 
another dander with D. Then comes lunch at one 
o'clock, to which we all go down. The company at 
table are all very friendly, even intimate. . . . Then 
we return up-stairs, and in about half an hour C. and D. 
take me out for a walk. We turn the sunny way down 
the valley, along the road, which is hard snow, and 
crossing one or two toboggan runs, as far as I am 
able to walk, which is a good way now. Then we come 
in and have tea, and I get to work again, and generally 
finish my chapter before dinner, which is at half-past six. 
Our letters sometimes come — they did to-day — at half- 
past two, sometimes not till past six, and we look for 
them eagerly ; then C. stays down in the smoking-room 



382 LETTERS. [1890. 

a little time after dinner and plays a game with the other 
men. All this sounds cheerful enough— doesn't it ? — and 
though we often flag in the way of talk, we do support 
each other, and keep very steady. But when they leave 
me and go to bed, then I confess I do put off my mask, 
and give myself up to the thoughts that have been be- 
sieging me through everything. It is the only time 
that I let myself go. 

To Mr Ctaik. Davos-Platz, 28M December. 

... I am very glad to hear that ' Edinburgh 1 is 
doing well, though it seems to me that you are making 
it rather Mr Reid's book than mine — however, that 
matters but little. Have you thought yet of any one 
to do the pictures of the 'Jerusalem'? I should like, 
whoever it may be that is chosen, to have an opportunity 
of seeing him and talking the matter over with him, 
which I think could not but be to the advantage of the 
work. I have some special ideas about the city itself 
which I should very much like to have brought out ; and 
as Cassell's ' Picturesque Palestine 9 is very good so far 
as the banal views are concerned, we should endeavour, 
I think, to make ours more illustrative of the text, if it is 
to have any originality, in a pictorial way. 

About the meaning of "the former" in the page of 
' Edinburgh ' which you mention, I certainly mean Burns, 
though it might be true enough of Shakespeare too: how- 
ever, the phrase in question was written while I had a 
conversation with Mr Andrew Lang fresh in my mind, 
in which that accomplished person informed me that he 
had been once asked to make a volume of selections 
from Burns, but that instead of doing so he marked 
the book all over "with expressions of dislike and dis- 
gust"! These were his words, which I am not likely 
to forget, and they show a little what criticism has 
come to in our days. 

I see that the * Athenaeum/ by the way, has noted one 
real'error of carelessness on my part, among many which 



1890.] 



A SNOWY PRISON. 



383 



are not so — about Duncan Forbes, who of course I know 
very well to be a contemporary of Allan Ramsay, and 
Fletcher of Saltoun older. I don't know how I can have 
been so careless as to represent them as reading his 
ballads in their childhood. By the way, if you should 
know any one who is reviewing the book, could you 
have it said that my George Buchanan chapter was 
written, corrected, and out of my hands before the 
recent book about him was printed? I put this in a 
note, but it might be well to mention it over again, 
and I would also like to correct the paragraph I refer 
to about Forbes and Ramsay before another edition 
comes out. Cecco will undertake the index with pleas- 
ure, though he is rather fully occupied : he is getting 
on very well, I am most thankful to say. 

And the weather is generally bright — much sunshine, 
though of course very cold, a snowy prison full of heavy 
thoughts; but, thank God, Christmas is over, which is 
always something. Every good wish. 



3»4 



LETTERS. 



[1891. 



189I. 

To Mrs Harry Coghtll. Davos, January. 

I must write to thank you for your kindness to Madge, 
of which she spoke so very gratefully and warmly. She 
had, I gather from her letter, rather broken down while 
she was with you, with the feeling of the season, and 
the dreadful change from all the associations that were 
familiar to her, of that new -year time. It can never 
be again as it has been in our diminished house, and 
perhaps it was better for all of us that it passed over 
under such changed conditions — if anything can be 
called better or worse. To the young ones, of course, 
the passage of time will do much, to me little; but 
I have tried to subdue that longing to be done with 
the days of life which was so strong upon me, for I 
know my Tiddy can have no need of me now, and 
the others have, so long as I can hold out. . . . 

My news about Cecco is all that could be desired. 
Dr Ruedi has seen him again, and finds the improve- 
ment progressing so well that he says, if all continues 
in the same way, he will be well in spring. I am very, 
very thankful, though my heart seems so dead to all 
thoughts but one that I scarcely seem to feel it. This 
is one great and strange consequence of the great parting, 
that the one who is gone, and who while he was present 
with us was the subject of many thoughts indeed, yet 
thoughts crossed and broken with a hundred other in- 
terests, becomes far more present, close, and intensely 
felt in every movement of life than if he were by one's 
side. The first result of the separation is thus to make 
all separation impossible, to bring him nearer and 
make him dearer than ever before. It shows how little 
death is, and yet how unspeakably great, cutting off all 
response. 



THE DANGER OF HIGH ALTITUDES. 



385 



I am very well, all the same, nothing touches me, 
and working very hard. I sometimes think that to 
be made ill by suffering, as other people are, would 
soften a little the pain; but I get the full sharpness 
of it in every way, though it is different at my age 
from the tempest of younger days. I think I am 
learning patience, and am soothed by the thought that 
it cannot be a very long time. I used to be appalled 
at thought of the long years to come when my Maggie 
died; now, they can't be very long. 

Pardon me for dropping into the usual weary strain. I 
shall have to give up writing letters, for I feel that I must 
weary out my friends. 

The health Mrs Oliphant thought so cruelly strong did 
give way at this time, and she had a sharp attack of 
illness, to the great distress of Cecco and her adopted 
daughter. It would seem that the high altitudes so often 
beneficial to younger people are far from wholesome for 
their elders. The bad effect of the climate on a system 
so hardly tried was very nearly fatal in this case, and the 
little party moved as soon as they possibly could to a 
milder air. 

To Mr Blackwood. DAVOS-PLATZ, 24M February. 

... I am still very far from well, and the doctor tells 
me that I must not expect to be so till I leave here. 
It appears that the High Alps are not good for elder 
people, and almost always produce a collapse of some 
kind. Mine has been attended by very severe internal 
pain, of which I have had a few attacks before, but 
none so repeated and continued. I tried very hard 
to finish your article, and was in hopes to have done 
it till the last moment, when another attack settled 
the question. I am better now, but in an irritated 
and feeble state, afraid to eat anything. Half in bed, 

2 B 



386 



LETTERS. 



I1891. 



however, I have managed to get through the proofs, 
and on next Monday, the 2nd March, we are to get 
off to San Remo, where the doctor says Cecco will 
do as well as here for the rest of the spring, Davos 
having strengthened and set him up so much. This 
of course removes all my objections to leaving. For 
many reasons I shall be very glad. These months 
have been very dreary ; and to see the fair face of 
nature again after looking on nothing but dazzling 
snow, may convey a little solace to the sick soul as 
well as body. 

Villa degli Olivi, San Remo, March 23. 

. . • Are you not rather rash in committing 4 Maga * 
to such very doubtful greatness as General Booth's, 
Sir Edgar Boehm's, and that of George Macdonald's 
poetry? I don't feel quite sure with the last paper 
whether it is in earnest or not, or if your contributor 
means to make fun of Macdonald, who is often a noble 
writer, but not, I think, according to these specimens, 
in poetry. . . • Mr Geddes seems to me to write the 
most dreadful nonsense, and his style is surely not 
worthy of 'Maga.' Forgive one of your oldest con- 
tributors for saying so. . . . 

This reminds me of my great negligence in not having 
thanked you before for the review of * Royal Edinburgh. 9 
I should have credited Mr Skelton with it, but that his 
own work was included with mine. In any case, whoever 
executed the work, many thanks for having it done. I 
presume the article on dear Mr Kinglake was Sir Edward 
Hamley's, and I am grateful to him too for what he says 
of our dear old friend's kind interest in my books. I was 
so ill when the Magazine arrived, and so altogether out of 
sorts, that I had not the heart to write to you about them, 
as I ought to have done. Pray forgive me. Mr Kinglake 
directed that I was to have a souvenir of him, and his 
nurse has sent me a little table which used to stand by 



i89i.] 



"THE OTHER FELLOW." 



387 



his chair, but what I should still more like to get would 
be his photograph. I got Mrs Kinglake, his sister-in-law's 
address, to send for one, but I have not written to her, 
and scarcely like to trouble her on the subject. Are you 
in correspondence with any of his family, and could you 
get me this ? I should very much like to have it. 

To the Hon. Emily Lawless. 

Windsor, Saturday Night, late, 30M May, 
Dear Emily, — The sight even of your handwriting 
is a pleasure, and your praise is very delightful, and gave 
me a surprised sensation of real pleasure still more warm. 
I had not, somehow, expected it. Pray believe, what is 
most completely the truth, that there is no one whose 
opinion I believe more, or whom I am more glad to 
please, and what you say of the book 1 is exactly what 
I should have most wished to accomplish. I am very 
glad that you think I have succeeded. The newspapers, 
you see, are trying hard to throw a little mud — though, 
as far as I am myself concerned, I have no reason to 
complain ; but I am indeed very much satisfied to have 
more or less secured their memory from misconception. 
I quite recognise the truth of your affectionate blame, 
that I don't care much about my own standing as an 
author. It would have been more sensible to have done 
so— to have shown a more proper regard for it when I 
was younger; but then life has always been at hard 
if not high pressure for me, and there have always been 
so many other things that were more important. Do 
you know, I am sometimes inclined to think that a little 
pomposity is coming on 1 I begin to have a faint con- 
sciousness of stilts, and of an inclination to think that 
a person of my standing should be treated with respect, 
which amuses me, as a new feature in what Colonel 
Lockhart used to call "the other fellow" who is one's 
self. 

1 life of Laurence Oliphant 



388 



LETTERS. 



[1891. 



F. R. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. 

Royal Library, Windsor Castle, August 14. 
I am sending you a little paper suggested by our stay 
at Davos last winter, which I have had by me for some 
time, to see if you could make any use of it. The next 
month or two seems to be just the time when it would 
come in handy, as people are thinking of where they 
are to go for the winter, and I daresay would be glad of 
some account of a place like Davos, which is apt at first 
mention to frighten people who are ordered out there. 
You may observe that I had originally always spoken 
of the place I was writing about as St Johann — the 
very little -known alternative name of Davos -Platz, — 
as an alias gives one a freer hand in writing of things 
that have actually taken place; but I have changed it 
back to Davos just for the reason that it might be 
more useful so. It has at any rate the merit of being 
short. 

I think Archie spoke to you about some sketches of 
our journey in Palestine which appeared in the * Spec- 
tator/ and which I am just now putting together with 
some additions to see if they would make a volume. 
I will send them to you in a week or so to see what 
you think could be made of them. It would have to be 
a very small volume, I fancy. 

The Davos paper appeared in the 'Spectator.' The 
" Notes " alluded to above made a useful and very in- 
teresting little volume, and was published by Messrs 
Blackwood. The dedication of the book " to my brother 
Cyril" makes it a touching memento of the two, who 
were so warmly attached to each other. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, ijtk October. 

I send you my Old Saloon paper, which I hope you 
will like. I have used, as you will perceive, few books, 
and I trust you will not think I have done wrong by 



1891.] LETTER FROM MR GLADSTONE. 389 

bringing in Rudyard Kipling, who I think wants some- 
thing more than the praise which is so liberally dealt 
to him in the newspapers. You will think, however, 
that I am still more liberal in my praise. . . . 

I have some books over, which will do for another 
time. Should you like another Old Saloon for January ? 
or would you prefer a story of a more or less " unseen 99 
character which is simmering in my mind ? It may not 
come to anything, but again it may. 

We are leaving here (this house) in about a fortnight, 
and Windsor in the middle of next month, and it is on 
the cards that we may not return again here, where so 
much of our life has been spent. My own house I will 
never go back to, and the whole place has become un- 
utterably sad. 

This decision could not be adhered to, and the 
diminished family returned to the old home at Windsor 
late in the summer of 1892. The Jerusalem book was 
published by Macmillan at this time. 

The Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone to Mrs Oliphant. 

Biarritz, December 28. 

Dear Mrs Oliphant, — The beautiful volume which 
you have so kindly sent me came, I need hardly say, 
introduced not only by your much too flattering note, 
but by abundant recollections of knowledge and of 
pleasure derived from you on many previous literary 
occasions. 

I have begun the perusal, and I much hope, and cannot 
doubt, that your living portraitures of Scripture characters 
will impress upon many minds an important portion of 
those evidences of the sacred volume which are so much 
higher than the " higher criticism," and which have a 
range of flight beyond its reach. — Allow me to remain 
with many thanks faithfully yours, 

W. E. Gladstone. 



390 



LETTERS. 



1892. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 25M August. 

I have been a long time of replying to your letter. 
Books do not seem very plentiful just now, and I 
don't know whether you would like me to take up a 
handful of novels, and perhaps a few poetry books. I 
should like to say my mind about Louis Stevenson's 
'Wrecker' and the 'Naulakha,' both of which are 
striking instances of the evils of collaboration, and I 
think would furnish good materials for a little slash* 
ing. As I am very fond of the principal authors in 
both cases, I should not go too far. I will send a list 
of some others if you feel inclined for this. . • . 

This heat must satisfy you, I think, even after Madeira; 
but it is very close and, especially here, very stifling, with- 
out any movement of air. One is never satisfied, which- 
ever way the balance turns. I am very anxious if possible 
to dispose of my house, since not only are the associations 
almost more than we can bear, but we ought for Cecco's 
sake to be as high up as possible instead of here at the 
foot of the hill. But in the meantime we must wait as 
patiently as we can. 

May I say that the new story in the Magazine begins 
very well? The incident is striking, and I think quite 
original, though the name of the story might have been 
better chosen. I hope you have not plunged with too 
much ardour into work. Was the cheap edition of 
Laurence Oliphant not a success? 

Windsor, 20/A Stpttmbr. 
. . . I was asking A. the other day when he 
was here whether you ever published on commission, 
which he said he believed you had done in a few cases. 



1893.] A PROJECTED GUIDE-BOOK. 391 



Cecco and I are meditating together a book on the 
Riviera which shall be a readable, and I hope enter- 
taining book, and at the same time a guide-book. 
Though that country is so well known now, it is in 
reality not known at all, which is a contradiction, but 
quite true. People usually confine themselves to the 
line along the coast, which is beautiful indeed, but be- 
comes dull by constant repetition, when in fact the ex- 
peditions, the picturesque little towns pushed up among 
the hills, and the valleys that lead to them, are endless 
and full of interest. To explore them and collect all 
their historical and traditional associations will be the 
healthiest work for Cecco, and he has fully settled to 
begin when he leaves England in November. We would 
like to keep the book in our own hands, and I wish to 
know whether you would print and undertake the publi- 
cation for us on the usual terms. It might take time to 
get known, but I have no doubt that it would be very 
profitable in the end, especially if we made it, as we at 
present contemplate, the first of a series of travel-books. 
We naturally turn to you to assist in this enterprise, if it 
is a kind of thing you do. I have been advising Cecco to 
send you an article embodying some part of the work, to 
give you an idea what it is. 

Windsor, 15M September. 

. . . By the bye, I have thought several times of 
collecting — only for private circulation — my own verses 
scattered through many years of 'Maga.' Could you 
bid some of your attendant spirits look them out for 
me, tearing out the page or making a rough reprint? 
I think I asked this before, but no attention was paid. 
It is not, of course, of the least importance, but I don't 
remember even the dates. 

Thanks for the volumes received yesterday of ' Valen- 
tine 9 and 1 Katie Stewart.' They are delightfully printed, 
and nice volumes, though I don't care for the binding. 
And I wish, I wish you had printed 4 Katie Stewart ' by 
herself. I don't care for ' John Rintoul ' — it is very girlish 



392 



LETTERS. 



0893. 



and mawkish ; and I don't think the Ladybank trifle was 
worth the honour of reprinting. 

The death of Tennyson and his funeral are the occasion 
of the next two letters. 

To Mr Craik. Windsor. 

I telegraphed to you yesterday in the evening, fearing 
that there might be a great rush, as no doubt there will 
be, for places in the Abbey on Wednesday. I hope my 
application would be in time. Mr Blackwood wants 
me to write something upon Lord Tennyson (not the 
funeral), and I should be grateful if you would send me 
the new volume when it is ready as well as a copy of 
the * Foresters.' What a pity that he was not gratified 
by seeing the latter performed in England in a becoming 
way ! If we knew when our great men were to be taken 
from us, how much more we might do to give them a 
pleasure before they go. 

All seems most nobly appropriate in his end, and 
nothing but congratulations seem to me to be applicable 
to him. He has met his pilot face to face. How entirely 
that last wonderful poem of his seems to have taken 
possession of everybody's imagination, and how fitly! 
Is it true that Hallam Tennyson has wished it to be set 
to music and sung at the funeral ? I can't think it very 
suitable for that. I suggested to Dr Bridge those verses 
from " In Memoriam " : — 

" Peace, come away, the song of woe 
Is after all an earthly song." 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, jtk October. 

Your letter this morning has thrown a different light 
upon the Tennyson article. I thought of it in the shock 
of the moment as a mere obituary notice, such as you 
sometimes put in at the end of the Magazine. This was 
a foolish mistake on my part, for of course our great poet 



1892.] 



IMPRESSIONS OF TENNYSON. 



393 



was not one of ' Maga's ' men. But I am rather afraid of 
the inveterate want of accord between you and me on the 
subject of poetry. I had forgotten Christopher North's 
strictures, in which I think that great critic must have 
been wanting in his usual insight ; but in any case I fear 
I can't agree that " Maud " is anything but an exquisite 
piece of art and melody, and "Locksley Hall" a very 
fine poem. You must decide, that being so, whether you 
will still want me to do the article. Of course a full 
article upon Tennyson and his works will take some time, 
and I shall want to know as soon as possible. 

He was once most amusingly rude to me, for which I 
bore him no malice, for it was exceedingly funny; and 
last time I saw him in the Isle of Wight he was delight- 
fully kind, and took the greatest trouble in making our 
little visit pleasant. He read two of his poems to me, 
one a long and difficult one, the "Ode on the Duke's 
Funeral," which must have been very trying and exhaust- 
ing to read : so my last view of him has left the most de- 
lightful impression on my mind. Now it is in your hands, 
let me know what you wish me to do. . . . 

I don't know the dates of any of my poor little verses 
which were in the Magazine, except that the first must 
have been in '52 or '53, and at long intervals after that 
up to '70. 



394 



LETTERS. 



1893. 

To Lady Cloncurry. St Raphael, February*. 

I have been delaying to write to you until I had an 
address! A family wandering about the world without 
an address is a comic, but at the same time almost a 
tragic thing, and I think I must make something of the 
predicament. However, for the moment this is ended, 
and I have not only an address, but so impressive a one 
that I hope you will be quite struck by it. ChaUau La 
Tour I — that is the name of the house — Chiteau La Tour, 
Mont Boron, Nice. It is close to our former villa, much 
more showy, but not so big, though also, alas ! consider- 
ably dearer. We found no villas at all to be had on that 
spot except this one, and we have been going through a 
course of bargaining, which, you know, by degrees heats 
one's blood ! You go on and the owner goes on, he falling 
and you rising, till you find that you have gone a great deal 
farther than you had any intention of going. You would 
laugh at our Tower, which is very French and fantastic 
outside, but very nice within; and the view is superb, 
the same we had last year, but a little more so, please 
tell Emily. 

I am so thankful, dear friend, to hear that you are 
better, and pleased to be at home in your quiet, and also 
very thankful that the weather in England has improved. 
We had a very wet day last Sunday, the day after we 
arrived here, but since then beautifully fine weather, a 
rapture of sunshine and water and sky. I had no idea St 
Raphael was so fine. I think the bay quite beautiful, 
though I fear I don't quite appreciate the forest so much 
as Emily does. It seems to me a little scrubby, the trees 
so much too small to be called by such an imposing name. 
Yesterday we drove up to the heights, a very long drive 
into the heart of the Esterels, and Cecco and Denny went 



RENEWED ANXIETIES. 



395 



up the Mont de Vinaigre, which is one of the highest, I 
believe. The trees there were big enough, and the great 
solitudes fine. However, the scenery is not so interest- 
ing, I am sure, to you as ourselves. I thought Cecco 
looking very well when we met, but I fear, from being 
out two or three times at sunset, he has caught another 
cold, and his cough is bad. I try to remind myself that 
the doctor said his cough had nothing to do with his lung, 
but was entirely irritation of the throat ; but when one 
hears a cough like his, and remembers that it is the chief 
sign of a terrible disease, it is very hard to keep one's 
equanimity. When it is better, I am better ; but when 
it torments him, as it sometimes does, I become a very 
poor creature indeed, and good for nothing. Still I can't 
say that he is not well on the whole. 

Madge tells me she is to be with you to-day, which I 
am very glad to hear : you will be talking of us, and I 
shall have detailed information about you, which I am 
longing for. It is so long since I have had any letter, 
which I know is my own fault, but I have been hoping 
day by day to be able to tell you where we should be. 
And then, however much it is one's own fault, one longs 
to hear, all the same. I found here established Mrs 
Harrison and Miss Kingsley, the latter so like her father 
that there could be no doubt who she was. 

To Mr Craik. 

Villa La Tour, Mont Boron, Nicr, 17M Ftbruary, 

We have settled down here for the spring in a beautiful 
corner, with the most delightful view of the sea and the 
mountains and the lights of Nice at our feet, very near 
the place where we were last year. Cecco is very well on 
the whole, and he has sent or is sending in an application 
for the vacant librarianship at the London Library. It 
is expressly said that no private applications are to be 
made on behalf of any candidate, so I do not ask you to 
use any interest of yours in his behalf, and I have not 



396 LETTERS. [1893. 

written to anybody on the subject, though no doubt you 
will know all, and I several, of the judges. I scarcely 
know what kind of post it is, and probably they will want 
an older man ; but in any case I think it was right for 
him to try for it. He has excellent testimonials. 

My chief disadvantage here is the difficulty of getting 
books. Will you please whistle for one of your slaves, 
and bid him inquire whether there are any translations of 
the life, letters, and works of St Gregory the Great, or of 
St Jerome, in English ? Cecco thinks there must be, but 
I am very doubtful. If there are, and they could be 
obtained, I should be very grateful if you would send 
them to me. I have the Latin, but a crib is legitimate 
for me, as I can't have Cecco tied to my apron. He begs 
me to ask whether you would be so very kind as to send 
him the 4 Agricola * of Tacitus, of which he says you have 
published an edition, and which he has at home, but I 
could not find to bring him. He would be very much 
obliged. May I add that any book you would throw in 
would be gratefully received and much welcomed ? 

I had half a mind, on reading a paper about the Poor 
Laws in Austria in your Magazine, to send you a sketch 
of Dr Chalmers's great experiment in Glasgow, which I 
think a very fine thing indeed, and which has fallen out 
of recollection. Would it be welcome, I wonder ? By 
the way, is it quite right to reproduce the pictures of the 
Edinburgh book in the ' Illustrated Magazine ' ? Isn't it 
rather cheapening the work they belong to ? You ought 
to be the best judge, but common-sense seems to sug- 
gest so. I think I read somewhere that you were get- 
ting rid of that magazine, which will be a good thing, I 
should think. 

Madge is getting on wonderfully with her engraving, 
but is more than likely to exemplify over again the fool- 
ishness of giving expensive training to young women, by 
turning her thoughts in quite a different direction. 

I suppose you are all very much excited about politics 
and Home Rule : you can scarcely be -more so than we 



1893] 



A MOTHER'S heaven. 



397 



are here, to whom the coming in of the newspapers is for 
the moment the chief feature of the day. 

To the Hon. Emily Lawless. Villa La Tour, 12M May. 

It seems years since I have heard from you, and as 
this is the most inappropriate moment possible for writ- 
ing letters, seated among the ruins of this three months' 
home, I naturally take advantage of it to send you my 
Ave in your new house. Going away is always a horror, 
especially that mauvais quart d'heure of the reckoning ! I 
have been paying and paying till I am quite sick. . . . 

We have had a checkered season altogether. Cecco 
has not been at all well. He has given me moments 
of great anxiety: even the doctor thought the old mis- 
chief was beginning again, and I had a week of such 
misery as I cannot describe. It is all right, I believe, 
but he is very thin and weak. This place, I think, — 
I almost hope, — has not suited him, and that he will 
be better elsewhere. I have been anything but well 
myself in consequence. And yet it is so beautiful, that 
to leave this glorious bay and the mountains and the 
lighthouses and all the villages on the hillsides, and 
the flowers rioting everywhere, roses flinging themselves 
about in every direction, is a pity too. What a thing 
it would be to live a week, a day, without some anxiety 
tearing at one's heart ! It would almost be heaven 
enough for a poor mortal of a mother, at least. 

Cheerful talk this for my Ave to the new house! All 
I have heard about it is delightful, and I hope, when you 
feel able and have any time to spare, you will tell me 
something more. We are leaving here to-morrow, and 
hope to get home on Thursday or Friday. 

This summer was one of a little revived cheerfulness. 
The elder of Mrs Oliphant's nieces (who were also her 
adopted daughters) was married on the 26th of July. 
There is always, or almost always, a certain amount 



398 



LETTERS. 



of pleasant excitement in preparing for a marriage — 
the gathering together of the bride's pretty things, the 
summoning of friends, and the arrangement for the 
ceremony. Into all this Mrs Oliphant threw herself, 
determined that the girl she had brought up should 
go to her husband surrounded by all that love and care 
could do for her. A very large party assembled, and for 
the last time the house, which had known so much happi- 
ness and so much sorrow, was filled and overflowing with 
guests. 

In all that was to be done Cecco took the part of 
master. He was far from well, and on the day of the 
wedding his looks alarmed some of those who loved him. 
Almost immediately afterwards there was an evident 
failure of his health, and his mother's anxieties became 
again as acute as ever. 

To the Hon. Emily Lawless. Windsor, 3rd August 

I write a line in haste to ask if you would lend your 
name and a little bit of work at any time to a humble 
magazine which is re -beginning on a more mature 
scale under the guidance of a quaint little friend of 
mine, a young Scotsman, whose queer ambition it is to 
establish a magazine. He has tried twice, and failed at 
the cost of all he had. But he is making this third 
attempt with passion, and with the aid of wealthy friends 
who will not let anybody suffer by him, though they will 
not be liberal in their payments. I am writing a story 
for him, chiefly out of interest and sympathy. ... I 
think you would be interested did you see him. Will 
you give him your name for his programme, and a little 
something, some day or other? ... Do give me your 
help for him. 

I hope you are now safe at Niton, since you are going 
there, though I also wish you had not gone there with 



SIR EDWARD HAMLEY. 



399 



a raging sea between us. I hope my dear Lady Clon- 
curry has got there safely, and I hope you will like it. 
Cecco is very, very poorly. It was found he had dilata- 
tion of the heart, which is the immediate cause of his low 
state ; but I am more anxious about him than any words 
can say. It seems to me as if my sorrows were never to 
have an end as long as my life lasts. 

" The Valentines " are here and look very happy, tell 
Lady Cloncurry, which it is a comfort to see. Don't 
think me importunate for endeavouring to make you 
lend your standard to a forlorn -hope. Much love to 
you both. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 27M August. 

• . . The two Hamleys make a great gap in the old 
band of contributors. I hope you pick up new ones to 
fill up the vacant places. One always regrets the days 
that are gone, but it must be " Le roi est mort, vive le 
roi ! " in literature as well as in all other things. . • . 

The last time, I think, that I saw Sir Edward was at 
a Royal Academy soiree in the Jubilee year, when he 
was blazing with all his stars and orders, and a most 
distinguished figure, whom one was proud to stand by. 
I have just been recalling this in writing to his niece. I 
am glad to have that last recollection of him. 



400 



LETTERS. 



[1894. 



1894. 

To F. R. Oliphant. Windsor, 9/* January. 

... I have done nothing but wade through Dean 
Stanley's Life this last week in the intervals of doing 
perfunctorily a little work in the mornings. What a 
queer little being he was, — quite uninterested in any 
argument or harmony of religious opinion, but up like 
a little turkey cock at the first note of discord, and 
grappling all dissentients to his small bosom — Maurice, 
Colenso, P£re Hyacinthe, Pusey, Newman, in their times 
of contradictiousness. Hampden and Goring (which are 
names you will know nothing of)> every man who fibs 
— which is a wrong word to use — is in the moment 
of his fibbing a delight to Stanley. It is a curious 
characteristic. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. 

Hotel d'Italib, Mkntone, March 4. 
I was very glad to get your letter, though you will 
think I have taken my time to answer it. I have been 
rather a cripple ever since I came here, very much taken 
up about my knees, which gave way in the most ridic- 
ulous manner when I attempted to walk, and gave me 
great pain ; and though this of course did not prevent me 
from writing, it hampered me in many ways. However, 
I have been in the hands of a masseuse for ten days, and 
am getting right again, which I really did not think I 
should have done. And now we are approaching the 
end of our stay here, Cecco being anxious to go on 
to fresh woods and pastures new. He is tolerably well, 
but still much troubled with his breathing ; and he has 
not gained much strength, I fear, but he is very full 
of Riviera work. I get him to drive as much as possible, 
and fortunately he begins to like driving. I must get 



MENTONE. 



401 



him a little trap of some kind when we get home. He 
is so tremendously conscientious about seeing with his 
own eyes everything he intends to mention in his book, 
that he gives himself more labour than he need do. We 
have had warm and fine weather on the whole, but with 
many misty grey days such as I have never seen before 
on the Riviera — they must be peculiar to Mentone. We 
are on the east bay, which is much the finest so far as 
the view goes, though not the fashionable end. We have 
a tiny little sitting-room, but with a balcony attached, 
the view from which is wonderful, the old town rising 
up to the right in all its wonderful glow of colour, and 
the coast on the other side ending in Bordighera, which 
is the most persistently shining and smiling place I ever 
sa^v. . • • 

I should like very much to hear about N. It is a pity 
we cannot be all poor or all rich together ; it would stop 
a great many heart-breakings — or perhaps heart-burnings 
would be a better word. It seems to me that money 
does most of the harm there is in the world, whether 
it is the want of it or the possession of it. I am glad 
to hear you are publishing your Staffordshire story. 
These publishers of yours seem the smartest going, 
in the American sense of the word. They seem to run 
up an author's reputation by means of dividing one 
decent edition into three or four, and thus turning a 
moderate success into, to all appearances, a brilliant 
one. I don't like tricks of that kind. I feel sure one 
of my books was treated in that way, though I have 
no information on the subject. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 91k July, 

... I had been thinking of offering to you a series 
of perhaps four articles, to appear at intervals, called the 
"Spectator" or the "Looker-on," or some such title, a 
sort of review of the three or four months preceding, — 
the season, the autumn, the winter season, &c.,— with 
a reflection of the Society and lighter morals, politics, 

2 C 



402 



LETTERS. 



[1894. 



art, and literature of the time. I don't know if you 
would care for them, but I have rather a fancy for 
doing them, and there is plenty of material, Heaven 
knows. Let me know if you would like them, for in 
that case I should look again at some things before 
the season is over. 

F. R. Oliphant to Mrs Harry Coghill. Windsor, July 11. 

... It is very kind of you to ask me to stay over 
Tuesday. . . . You see even that means three days 
which must be days without work, and I can hardly 
afford to spare an hour. I am working hard against 
time to finish this Riviera book, which should if pos- 
sible be out in October, so as to catch the first batch of 
people going south. Then we have to deal with one of 
these new young publishers, who of course tries to make 
one believe that it will take six months to set up a hun- 
dred pages or thereabouts. We don't believe him, and 
are not afraid to tell him so, because we had originally 
thought of publishing this book on our own hook, and the 
possibility of at any time falling back on that course gives 
one a pleasant freedom in dealing with the publishing 
ogre. However, I promised at first to give him my 
manuscript in the end of this month, which I have 
since been obliged to change to the first fortnight in 
August, and I know I shan't be ready then. I have 
still six chapters to write, and much looking up of 
books and authorities, which means days spent in the 
British Museum, the worst managed and noisiest read- 
ing-room in Europe. I only go into these details to 
show you that there is no humbug about it, because, 
as a general rule, I find my friends have a healthy 
disbelief in my having anything to do, or doing it if 
I have, perhaps on account of my not concealing the 
fact that I regard work of any kind with a cordial 
detestation, and would never do any if I could help 
it. In complete idleness alone is true happiness to be 
found. Fine weather is perhaps also necessary, and 



18^] 



"FANCIES OF A BELIEVER/' 



403 



I prefer fine scenery. But there is much in doing 
nothing. You were kind enough to suggest that I 
could go on with my work at Coghurst; but I should 
have to bring a perfect chestful of books, as I never 
know to what I may want to refer, and I am not 
going to spoil my time at Coghurst with anything 
whatever to do. ... I hope to be able to get to town 
in the morning and see an hour or so of the Eton and 
Harrow match, which I have not seen since 1889. The 
University match I had to give up from want of time, 
though I have not seen that either for five years, and 
I was in town two of the days. 

Mrs Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Windsor, 22nd August. 

I have an offer from America for a novel to begin 
in the end of next year or beginning of '96. I don't 
care generally, feeling how uncertain life is, especially 
at my age, to enter upon engagements so long in ad- 
vance, but still the book might be in existence even 
if I no longer were so. I want to ask you whether 
you would take the story to be published serially simul- 
taneously with the American issue. Of course in these 
circumstances I should not stand out for any high price, 
but would ask to be paid only per page as for monthly 
contributions. The book would be of the usual length. 
I should not like to lose the advantage of the American 
offer, as I have had very little good as yet from America. 
As the New York people ask in what magazine the story 
would be published here, and at what time, I think it 
best to ask you if you would be inclined to make any 
bargain with me before answering them. Would you 
then kindly reply to this as soon as possible? 

I have been thinking of sending you a paper for Christ- 
mas to be called " The Words of a Believer " — not of the 
class of the stories of the Seen and Unseen, but yet some- 
thing in that way, containing, in fact, my own theories of 
the world and its management. Should you care to have 
it ? — of course I give you the first offer ; and will you give 



404 



LETTERS. 



me your advice whether the Believer should be a man or 
woman? Naturally I should say the first, but the ten- 
dency of the day is so much (apparently) in the other 
direction that I hesitate. Of course it would be more 
actually true to make a woman the speaker, but a gener- 
ation ago it would have given the adversary an occasion 
to blaspheme against old women and their maunderings. 
I doubt whether this would be the case now ; but it is a 
curious question, and one on which I should like to have 
your advice. 

At this moment, when, though she did not know it, but 
was still fighting to keep her terrible anxieties at bay, the 
last and crowning sorrow of her life was approaching, Mrs 
Oliphant was cheered and interested by a suggestion made 
to her by Mr Blackwood. This was that she might 
undertake the history of the great publishing house with 
which for forty-two years she had been so closely con- 
nected. Many of the old friends of that house had passed 
away; she herself was to lay down her task unfinished. 
But there could be no question of her superlative fitness 
for the work, and though it proved extremely laborious, 
it was more congenial to her in the last sad days of her 
life than the lighter kinds of writing from which she 
began to shrink. The following is her answer to Mr 
Blackwood's first letter on the subject: — 

Windsor, 26M August. 
I like your proposal, or rather suggestion, very much 
indeed. I have often wished that you would think of 
doing something of the kind. It ought to make a 
valuable as well as very interesting book, for the his- 
tory of the Blackwoods would involve a most important 
piece of the recent history of literature, as well as many 
extremely interesting figures. Your grandfather and elder 
uncles must have been men full of character, and few 



I894-] "THE ANNALS OF A PUBLISHING HOUSE." 405 

people living can have a clearer recollection than I of 
your Uncle John, — your father too, always so kind, the 
kindest of all. I should undertake the work with the 
greatest of pleasure, and I think I could do something 
worthy of the subject. You must have boundless ma- 
terial, and it is always the kind of work I prefer to 
any other. There are a great many things that we 
should have to talk over or write about, and I should 
like to know your views on the subject more fully. It 
is possible that I may be going to Dundee in the be- 
ginning of the month if Cecco keeps well, and on my 
return I might perhaps stay for a day in Edinburgh 
for this purpose, but that would depend upon Cecco. 
He is tolerably well, but the terrible weather we have 
been having is very trying and depressing, and affects 
him a good deal. To-day, after nearly a week of rain 
and cold, it is quite hot again, and as bright as possible, 
which does one's heart good. I hope we are going to 
have a good September. It is dreadful to see the golden 
sheaves getting all brown and shabby and soaked in the 
wet fields. I hope you have not felt the evil influence of 
the weather. . . . 

It is curious enough that the idea of a book on the 
House of Blackwood as a thing that should be, though 
not in any connection with myself, passed through my 
mind with some vividness a little while before I heard 
from you. It must have been a brain-wave! 

A gleam of something like happiness, or at any rate 
pleasure, came at this time with the birth of a little 
daughter of Mrs Valentine. It was only a gleam lost in 
the terrible grief that followed, but still the little Mar- 
garet was very sweet and interesting to her " Grannie." 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. 

Elm wood, Lochre, Dundee, Sipt. 13. 
I feel myself unpardonable not to have written to you 



406 



LETTERS. 



at first hand to tell you about Madge, but I was at the 
moment distracted by bad news from home, and lost my 
head, I fear, altogether. . . . 

The baby is a fine little thing with a pair of big very 
bright eyes, but a most determined little person, a real 
struggle-for-lifeur or -euse, — certain that there is nothing 
in the world so important as that she should have her 
food in due season. . . . 

I came on the morning of the 3rd September, leaving 
home with very great reluctance, for Cecco had been 
very poorly. Since I came he has had another bad turn, 
and I have been torn in pieces between the two. Thank 
God, my news since Sunday has been better, but he is in 
so weak a state that any additional trouble breaks him 
down altogether. I have been myself so worn out with 
the constant strain of anxiety and miserable helplessness, 
that the relief of the good news almost broke me down 
also. And I feel as if I could not get up my hopes again 
as I used to do : however elastic a cord may be, it breaks 
its fibre at the last, and I feel the prospect very dark 
before me. I sympathised with you very much when I 
saw the death of Mrs S., knowing you would feel it so 
much, and intended to have written then, but I was not 
sure where you were, if you were still in St Andrews. 
Poor, little, soft, kind woman, it makes one's heart ache 
to think of so gentle a creature suffering, and I suppose 
she had a great deal of trouble. Thank God that there 
comes an end to all that, at the last. . . . The baby will 
be Margaret, I suppose, like all her female forebears. I 
am going home on Tuesday, 18th, at the latest. 

On the 1st of October Cecco died. Even now the 
words cannot be written without a pang, though the 
desolate mother found courage to tell the sad story her- 
self to the one who writes them. 

Windsor, 2nd October. 
I am writing what letters I can myself simply to keep 



1894.] 



THE CROWNING SORROW. 



407 



me from distraction, — I must do something, whatever it 
is. My Cecco died last night. He is gone from me, my 
last, my dearest, and I am left here a desolate woman 
with the strength of a giant in me, and may live for 
years and years. Pity me, — it seems as if even God 
did not, and yet no doubt He had a higher reason 
than pity for me. The dreadful thing is that I can't 
go too: I am forced to live, though everything in life 
is gone. 

You know that my dearest boy has been very poorly all 
the summer — not from the complaint which we were all 
so much afraid of, which I believe was as much got under 
as it could be, and in complete abeyance. Monday night, 
the 17th, he was taken ill with inflamed throat and 
tongue, and I got home from Scotland on Wednesday 
morning to find him ill in bed, but nothing to be alarmed 
about. He got well of that, though very weak, and was 
downstairs for two or three days. Then he had a re- 
lapse, but got over that too. Yesterday morning, after 
a bad night, he was so ill and restless that I sent in a 
hurry for Dr Miller, who said it was exhaustion, and 
poured in stimulants, but with little or no effect. At 
about half-past eleven at night, after he had been quite 
given up, he made a wonderful rally, and even I was for 
a moment deceived. The doctor left expressing hopes, 
but had not been gone ten minutes when he sank again 
all at once, and peacefully like a child breathed out his 
last breath. He lies now on his own bed, a perfect image 
of repose, his face rounded out as if he had never known 
illness, his look so peaceful and so sweet. And here am 
I, his desolate, heart-broken mother, childless, and yet as 
strong as iron, as if I should live for ever. . . . My 
Cecco, always my baby, never parted from me, always 
mine ; and now I shall never hear his constant call upon 
me again, never until we meet where all will be so differ- 
ent. I write to try and deaden myself a little, and in the 
hope of getting tired and done like other people, but that 
is what I never seem to be. 



4o8 



LETTERS. 



[1894. 



It is indeed a sad task to recall the silent house : the 
mother sitting desolate, deserted by all the children who 
had been the heart and soul of her life ; feeling herself 
physically strong still, though she seemed to others only 
the white shadow of what she had been ; able to talk of 
her boy with tears, indeed, but with calmness, until some 
too poignant thought made her start up and steal away 
into solitude. And close beside her, in the boy's room 
which he would never consent to have altered, lay the 
last of all her treasures — those treasures that were her 
very own, and for which she had waged so brave a fight. 
Day and night she scarcely left him for an hour, until he 
was carried away to be laid beside his brother at Eton ; 
and even then she stood beside him, feeling, as she wrote 
afterwards, as if the " two other boys," her own Cyril and 
Frank, long ago dead in India, stood one on each side of 
her and supported her through the anguish of the parting. 

For a week or two after this there was a stillness and 
exhaustion of grief over the house. In the quaint study 
in which Cecco had gathered his books, queer volumes of 
heraldry, special editions of his favourite classics or his 
best beloved poets — where all sorts of weapons, pipes, 
and curiosities decorated the walls — his chair still stood 
by the writing-table, and, left as when he had risen from 
his last day's work, the half-written page, and the pen 
laid down for ever, seemed only waiting for his ac- 
customed presence. But it was all over. The goad, 
urging her to perpetual exertion, which his frail life had 
supplied to his mother, had failed her suddenly and 
completely. There was no longer pleasure or hope 
either, — nothing but such patient endurance as God's 
grace might vouchsafe to her. 

But after that dreadful pause work did begin again : 



"AN ETON MASTER." 



409 



a paper called " Fancies of a Believer " came from her 
heart, and was perhaps the very best kind of occupation 
she could have found. And she finished and sent off to 
Mr Blackwood a paper called "An Eton Master," a 
sketch of the Rev. Edward Hale, one of the earliest and 
most valued of the friends who had gathered about her 
during her boys' school-life. Mr Hale had died shortly 
before Cecco, and this little memorial of him was really 
a labour of love. 

To Mr Blackwood. Windsor, lotk October. 

It grieves me not to be able to keep my engagement 
about the " Looker-on, " but you will feel that it is im- 
possible at present. God has stricken me so sorely that 
I am sure you will excuse and forgive. As soon as it is 
in flesh and blood to do it, I will. I have sent the little 
article on Mr Hale, and I shall, if I can, send "The 
Words of a Believer " before Christmas. I received your 
box safely. If I live — which I most heartily pray God I 
may not, but one knows how vain are one's desires in the 
face of His decrees — it will be a great relief from other 
work to undertake your family history: in any case, I 
will keep the materials safely and in their proper order. 
I have never been able to thank you for the kind thought 
that made you suggest this work to me as a kind of prop 
and support in the midst of my many expenses and cares. 
These are now diminished along with my life, and I 
earnestly hope that the blow which has taken my all from 
me may have so loosened the tenacity of existence that I 
may not abide long after him ; but God only knows. In 
the meantime, bear with me in respect to the other 
things which I had pledged myself to do. Thank you 
for your sympathy. 

To the Hon. Emily Lawless. Windsor, 15M October. 

Dearest Emily, — I send a little note to be given to 
your dear mother if you think it fit. The girls, Denny 



LETTERS. 



and Fanny Tulloch, who has made herself so one with us 
in our calamity that we are never likely to part, have been 
looking for a house in London to which we could remove 
at least for a time, partly to make the journey a little 
more easy for Madge, who, we have been hoping, would 
come to us soon, partly in the first impulse of leaving this 
desolate house. But both these motives have been shaken 
in the last few days. Madge is not doing so well as we 
hoped, and has got at present an attack of rheumatism 
about which I am anxious, and we may go to her instead 
of waiting for her to come to us. ' And I begin to feel that 
the world outside is more desolate still than this poor 
bereaved house, which was my boys' home for almost all 
their dear lives, and where their trace is upon everything. 
But anyhow, we shall probably go to London for a time, 
and if I can so command myself as to meet dear Lady 
Cloncurry with something less than a miserable face, I 
will come, and be thankful to come, often to her. You 
must judge if I am fit to see her. I am not fit to see any 
one, but I would do much for her dear sake. Pity me, 
for I am always well, horribly well, and all my life hot 
and strong in me — nothing to soften one pang or get me 
any respite. I am all emptied out, hope and motive all 
gone, nothing but sorrow and anguish left. But I know 
you do pity me. Thank you for the letter which came 
straight out of your heart. 

Birnam Hotel, Birnam, Oct. 25. 
. . . You ask do I read ? I would read night and day 
if I could, or work — these two things keep me going, 
since go I must, and no softening of incapacity or weak- 
ness is ever allowed me. You can't imagine how I long 
to be ill or stupefied in some way ; but, on the contrary, 
I am all strung up, and fit for everything. We have been 
very anxious about Madge, but she has now taken a good 
turn and is recovering rather slowly, but I hope all right. 
The baby is quite well, and a very dear little thing ; they 
are either coming with us or soon to follow us to London, 



A DREARY EXPERIENCE. 



411 



and indeed it is partly on her account that I want to be 
there, for she has had something happen to her eye, an 
internal haemorrhage, and must consult an eye doctor. 
This has been a very dreary experience, as any experience 
must have been at such a time. Denny and I say to 
each other that Cecco would have liked the place, but 
that only makes its beauty more sad. God bless him! 
he was our chief motive in everything. 

I hope dear Lady Cloncurry will recover her strength 
as soon as it is possible to hope for it, and that you, 
when she gets well, will be able to have a change. I 
don't write to her — what can I say ? You will give her 
my tenderest love, and tell her how often I think of her, 
and how sorry I am she will not be within reach. I 
can't write, and yet I can, and feel as if it were a 
moment's ease to let my heart overflow to you. But I 
will not say any more, dear Emily, for your sake rather 
than mine. I hope that ' Maelcho 9 will do very well, 
and that you will be pleased with it in print, which 
always makes a difference. God bless you for all your 
kind thoughts. 

To Mrs Cornish. Birnam, Sunday, 28M Oct, 

I have meant to reply to your kind letter for some 
time, but the courage has always failed me. When last 
God called upon me to give up what was the half of 
my being, I could speak a little and express the anguish 
that was in me ; for then I had still my Cecco, his 
ever-ready arm to lean on, and a motive and object for 
every self-denial. But now I have lost all, everything 
on this earth that came from me and was wholly mine. 
I thank God for my dear little Denny, to whom I seem 
to do wrong by speaking as if she were not mine, which 
she is by every tenderest tie. But only God knows, who 
has not spared, what Cecco was to me — my child still, 
though a man, my dearest friend and closest companion. 
It seems strange that with all the assurance I have 
that God would not have stricken me with this dread- 



412 



LETTERS. 



[1894- 



ful blow had it not been best, and indeed necessary for 
him, I should bear it no better than if I had no hope 
at all ; but nature is very weak and humanity very short- 
sighted, and the distance that is between him and me 
and the silence seem more than flesh and blood and an 
old worn-out soul can bear. There was never a day 
when he was away from me that he did not write to me ; 
during these years of his weakness he has liked always 
to have me by his side, his call to me, " Mamma," as he 
always said, was continual, in everything he wanted me, 
till we made a joke of it, in the happy days in that other 
world which came to an end scarcely a month ago, though 
it looks like a hundred years. Yes, you are right ; I was 
more blessed in him than most mothers are, the more and 
the greater is my desolation now. But yet I know that 
I ought to bear it better, only that my prayers are all 
silent — I seem to have so little now to ask for, nothing 
but that I may soon be united again to my dearest boys 
in that little house at Eton where they are waiting for 
me, and in that above, which is dim, of which we know 
so little. And the less prayers one has to say the farther 
off one seems to get from God, who is all that is left 
in the ruin of my earthly hope. 

Since I wrote this I have been called down to see 
Bishop Wilkinson, who is a good man and has said many 
things to me which will perhaps do me good after a 
while ; but, alas I one knows everything or almost every- 
thing that can be said, and has said it to oneself over 
and over with so little effect. I find a little comfort in 
fantastic thoughts that float into my mind I cannot tell 
how. You and your dear husband say many kind things 
to me of my Cecco, and Mr Cornish bound me to him 
by saying how he had wished in the time to come to 
make a friend of my dearest boy. And I know my Cecco 
in his heart loved good company and was fain to make 
friends, but was kept back by the reserve of his nature 
and a shyness to believe in the interest of others in him- 
self. And the other morning it came into my head that 



IS94-] 



GLEAMS OF CONSOLATION. 



413 



he would now have the noblest of company, and would 
doubt no more of the affection of others, but know as he 
was known. And this for a little gave me great and 
sweet consolation, to think of him among some band of 
the young men like himself whom I have a fond fantastic 
thought that our Lord draws to Him, because He too in 
His flesh was a young man, and still loves His peers in 
human age, and gathers them about Him, for some great 
reason of His own. You will feel how fantastic all this 
is, and yet it gives me more gleams and moments of 
consolation than anything else. 

You will have heard that we came here hurriedly on 
account of Madge, who was ill and still continues very 
delicate. I hope to bring her down to London next 
week, where we shall be for a month or two ; but unless 
my house should be let, which I scarcely expect, yet 
should not refuse, we shall come back after Christmas to 
the melancholy empty place, which yet was the home of 
my boys, and in which I should like to die too, when God 
pleases. I want to send Mr Cornish the last book which 
my Cecco ever bought, which had been taken to his 
bedroom for him to see, and was still there when he 
passed away from all the fancies and likings of this life. 
It is a Baskerville Ariosto, valuable, I believe, for the 
printing: your husband, I think, shares that taste too. 
Give him my love and thanks for all his good thoughts 
of my dearest boy, and to you too, dear. 

When the visit to Scotland was over, Mrs Oliphant 
took possession for a few weeks of a house in London, 
where her two adopted daughters and little Margaret, 
the baby whom she could not but care for and pet, were 
her companions. Thence she writes : — 

To Mr Blackwood. 85 Cadogan Place, S.W., Nov. 3. 

... I am working now at the " Words of a Believer " 
with, I fear, but indifferent success ; for I am very rest- 



4H 



LETTERS. 



[1894. 



less, and find it difficult to settle at my work for any 
time, even though it is the only thing that does me any 
good. I have been in Scotland for a fortnight, having 
been taken there by the illness of Madge, who has been 
in a very delicate state ever since her baby's birth, or 
rather since our great calamity fell upon her just at the 
moment when she was least able to bear a shock. I have 
brought her and her child here with me, and we shall 
remain in London I think for about two months. If I 
possibly can I will try to do the " Looker-On " for your 
January number. Work is the only thing for me, but 
I do not think I have ever been so unfit to avail myself 
of that opiate. 

I hope to begin your work, ' The House of Blackwood,' 
early in the year. I would very fain make this my last 
work, if God will be so good to me as to let me go by the 
time I have finished it. I should not in any case take 
more than two years to it, and would probably do it much 
sooner if there was any need for hurry. I can think of 
nothing better, if I must go on with this weary life so 
long, as to conclude everything with this book. We 
rarely get what we wish for in this way, but it would be 
very sweet to me, and I can at least hope for it. You 
were kind enough to say you would like it to be a kind 
of annuity to me while it lasted, which would be a 
great comfort too, as making me independent of chance 
work. You will perhaps tell me what your views are on 
this subject, but in no hurry. I think I could make a 
very much more interesting book of it than the Murray 
book. I began my married life by my first story in 
'Maga' — the proofs of which ('Katie Stewart') I re- 
ceived on my wedding-day: I should like to wind up 
the long laborious record (which seems to me now to have 
been so vain, so vain, my life all coming to nothing) 
with this. 

For once, at least, her desires were accomplished. This 
book was the last. 



1894.] 



A WORLD FULL OF SORROW. 



" The Words of a Believer " 1 appeared in ' Blackwood ' 
for February. Certainly it appealed to many hearts. 

85 Cadogan Placb, S.W., Nov. 16. 

I fear that you will perhaps find this too serious, and 
perhaps will agree with it too little to put it into the 
Magazine. I don't even know if it is very suitable for the 
Magazine. You must decide solely as you think best. 
It is not what is called orthodox, nor is it unorthodox, 
and it is perhaps fantastic — that I am sure it is anyhow. 
It is even perhaps too much the musing of a very sore 
heart to be fit for the public at all. But only there are 
so many sore hearts. I do not, however, wish to bias 
your judgment in any way. 

In the midst of her sorrow she was never insensible 
to the sufferings of others, and the following letter, 
written to one in great trouble, will show how keen 
her sympathies were: — 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. 85 Cadogan Place. 

Seeing you yesterday was such a mere flash, like a 
dream of trouble and pain, that I must say a word to you 
to-day, though indeed I have very little to say. It is so 
easy to bid you have courage. It was the first thing that 
came into my head this morning. . . . How full the 
world is always of trouble and sorrow! I don't know 
how I shall get through Sunday, knowing what I know. 
I steal out now in the early morning to Mr Eyton's 
church, round the corner, to the early communion. I 
have lost confidence in any prayer of mine, but as one 
must pray whether one will or not, I will carry you there 
with me, my dear, and ask strength for you and ease and 
complete restoration, and you may be sure, if they know, 
the boys will add their word, knowing better than we do. 

1 " Fancies of a Believer," ' Maga,' February 1895. 



416 



LETTERS. 



[1894- 



I dreamt this morning I was reading one of Cecco's letters, 
and he said, " Everything here is covered with gowans, 
as you call them." Now, I never do call daisies gowans ; 
was it not strange? and doesn't it give you the idea of 
a great sunshiny flowery mead that he must have been 
in? I am very foolish in my maunderings. You won't 
forget that I will come to you at any moment that I can 
be of the least use or comfort to you, which will be good 
for me too. We are sending you a couple of books. Have 
you read the ' Raiders ' ? As it is rather old now, I sup- 
pose you must. . . . 

God bless you, dear, and give you strength. You came 
to me in my great trouble. I hope all good angels will 
be with you. 

An article entitled " In Maga's Library," published 
in the Magazine for December, has a notice of Mrs 
Oliphant's work, and — what she valued much more — a 
short but very just appreciation of such writings of 
Cecco's as had appeared in those familiar pages. 

To Mr Blackwood. 85 Cadogan Place, Dec. 4. 

You will be surprised that I have not written before 
to thank you and your contributor for what he has so 
kindly said both about me and my dearest boy. Will 
you say to him that I shall be ever grateful to him for 
his kind words ? Whatever touches my Cecco is precious 
to me, and about the only thing in which I can take any 
real interest in these dark days. It is only this moment 
that, turning to the article to see whether by any chance 
I might have mentioned in my article any book already 
mentioned in that, I found my own name and my Cecco's. 
I presume it is Mr Allardyce who is the author: I am 
very grateful to him, and do not delay a moment in 
saying so, though you must have thought me very in- 
different. There have been several very kind notices 
in the papers. It is a pleasure, if anything can be a 



'"V. 



I894-] THE UNFINISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 



417 



pleasure, to see it in " the Magazine," as my boys used 
to call it, as if no other magazine existed. 

85 Cadogan Place, 7M December. 
I did not think it was necessary to reply to your tele- 
gram last night, as there was no hurry, but I think I 
must explain more fully what my meaning is. I said to 
you that I hoped 'Who was Lost/ &c, would be the 
last novel I should write. (There is, however, one to 
come out in ' Longman's Magazine ' which was written 
before.) I have a Life of Joan of Arc to do, one of the 
Heroes of the Nations series, and a child's book about 
Scotch history, and besides that my desire is to under- 
take nothing but to give myself up to your great book. 
I had calculated I might take two years to it, and though 
the other calculation I know is presumptuous, I had 
hoped that these two years might perhaps see me to the 
end of my life. ... It seems in my mind to shape itself 
to three volumes, and it would please me thus to bring 
my life's labours to a conclusion. It is true that this is 
calculating without the will of God, which is, after all, 
the great thing, and He has refused so many of my 
prayers that I have perhaps no right to expect better for 
this; but still, as I am nearly sixty-seven, there seems 
reason for hope at least. 

85 Cadogan Place, December 19. 
. • . I forgot to say to you when writing last that I 
have various chapters of my own experiences written, 
which if I live long enough to finish them might make a 
book not without interest. It has sometimes given me a 
little amusement to write it, meaning it for my sons. Its 
character may be changed now, but it will be more 
adapted perhaps for the public. ... It is premature to 
speak of it in its present state, but I think it well to let 
you know that there is such a thing to be calculated upon. 

The autobiographical work, never completed, forms the 



4i8 



LETTERS. 



[1894. 



first part of this present book. What Mrs Oliphant says 
in these letters she repeated without word of change on 
her deathbed. Only it would seem as if in those last 
hours of failing strength she did not quite remember how 
prematurely her narrative broke off. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. 85 Cadogan Placb, S.W., Dec. 31. 

It was very kind of the girls to go and look after the 
house, and still more kind of you to write as you did, 
when you have so much to think of in your own person, 
but I must go home after all. I do not know how I will 
fare when I get there. If I can bear it at all, it will 
probably be better and sweeter to be there than anywhere 
else. It was the home of my dearest boys, to which they 
were both attached and liked better than any other place. 
Cecco said to me a few days only before he left me, when 
I was talking about changing the position of his bed, that 
he had slept there for more than twenty years. All the 
associations of his life are there, and I should like to die 
there. I think it will be better for me, for the little time 
that remains to me, there than anywhere else. . . . 

I am instinctively forming all my plans for two years : 
it would be so comfortable if all should be wound up then, 
and myself dismissed to the narrow little house at Eton 
and all well. God grant it may be so! It would be 
dreadful to begin all over again, and struggle for work 
once more. Then another reason : if I stay at home, I 
may be able to afford to go away here or there when it 
becomes intolerable, which with a more expensive house 
and a new settling I could not do. This looks a little like 
a bull, that I should stay at home in order to be able to 
go away, but you will know what I mean. 



I895-] 



"A GOOD JOY." 



419 



1895. 

The proof referred to in the following letter was that 
of "Fancies of a Believer": — 

To Mr Blackwood. WINDSOR, I Uh January. 

I send the proof corrected — but pray don't publish it 
unless you think you can risk it. I should much prefer 
not putting any name, but if you prefer that I should take 
the responsibility, as is quite right, put the initials only. 
It seems to me, however, that any name would spoil the 
effect. It is sure to be attributed to me. My " Little 
Pilgrim " has never had my name, but nobody ever 
doubted that it was mine ; and this too would be better 
for being without a name, but I leave it to you— nothing 
more than initials in any case. . . . 

There is a phrase in Mr Skelton's very interesting 
article about Mr Froude which shows that gentleman's 
usual methods — I mean Mr Froude's methods. He says, 
"'A good joy,' as Mrs Carlyle used to say." Now Mrs 
Carlyle did say it in her sarcastic way as an absurd 
expression used by Leigh Hunt's children, who lived near 
her, and who, when they were coming back from their 
walk, used to run in and tell her they had had such a 
good joy. She quoted it in illustration of the high- 
flown talk in which they were trained, and here it is 
put into her own mouth as if she had ever spoken in 
that way. Will you tell Mr Skelton ? but I fear he will 
not like it. 

To Mrs Harry CoghilL Windsor, 27/A January. 

I should have answered your letter at once. It occurs 
to me to say that I waited for Sunday, which somehow 
seems the appropriate day for Icttres intimcs; but that 



420 



LETTERS. 



[1895. 



really would not be true, since it is only a sort of langour 
of soul which makes me put off everything — a restless 
languor, idle and yet incapable of keeping still, which 
makes me break off as soon as I come to the middle of 
anything I am doing and turn to something else, as if one 
could cheat one's weary soul to a sense of novelty in that 
way. But I need not tell you over and over again the 
vagaries of that weary soul. Thank you a thousand 
times, dear Cousin Annie, for your letter and for your 
most kind invitation. I think I am best where I am, 
wherever that might happen to be. It is no use for me 
to stir. We should change the skies but not the mind, 
and in my present condition one place is much the same 
as another. I can't be much worse ; I don't hope, nor 
indeed scarcely do I wish, to be any better. I just get 
through every day as I can, not easily, but somehow. 
The corner that I have crouched into is the best to stay 
in, especially in this awful and blighting cold. For years 
past, you know, by this time we have been away to the 
South, and that, perhaps, makes me feel the look of the 
cold and the sensations of it more bitterly. . . . 

I am greatly grieved to hear that you are not getting 
up your strength or your heart as you ought. Try, dear 
Cousin Annie, try. It is your duty, as well as by far the 
best policy, to look on the bright side. How curious it is 
that we should find this so difficult to do ! I for my part 
am always telling myself that the new life must be so 
much better, more blessed in every way for those who are 
gone, and then return to break my heart over the petty 
things left behind, — the lives like other men, the work 
half done or never begun, — when if I could only feel what 
I believe I should be quite happy. But you, I think it 
ought to be easier if you would but remind yourself that 
every probability is in your favour. ... Do not let 
yourself think, dear. In some cases there is no such evil 
exercise, and it is wonderful what control we have over 
our thoughts when we exercise it steadily. I used almost 



1895.] 



A SUCCESSFUL DRAWING. 



421 



to brag, though sadly enough, in the time of those anxie- 
ties which you know of, which were to my present state 
what the height of a battle is to the dreary sighing of the 
captives in prison — that I had got to be able to stop the 
course of my thoughts, and think of something else, even 
when the strain was fiercest. Don't be vexed if I preach. 
Have not I a little right ? though in respect to illness I 
know it is you who are the professor and I who should be 
the pupil, and I should not bear physical pain half so well 
as you do : to tell the truth, I don't bear anything well 
nowadays, so that I am little better than a humbug when 
I begin to advise. 

March 3. 

. . . Denny has made an extremely successful drawing 
of me in pencil — very simple and exceedingly good, I 
think. It seems to me rather original altogether: I 
have seen nothing like it. I am anxious to have it 
shown to the Queen. I like it better than her painting. 
Perhaps this may turn out the thing she can do. We 
must have it photographed. She thinks of sending it to 
the Academy, and Mr Holmes says certainly she must do 
so. I am very much pleased with it as a drawing, and 
people seem to think it is like. It would give me as much 
pleasure as anything in the world can nowadays, which I 
fear is not saying much, to see her get into an assured 
way of doing good work. Madge is coming in about a 
week, I believe. Never was anybody so fond of a baby 
as she is. The little thing has got two teeth, and is a 
wonderful creature altogether. 

I am not much to brag of in any way. Did I tell you 
of my great piece of work, the ' House of Blackwood ' ? 
I spend half of my day reading old letters, which I 
thought would be a good sane piece of half-mechanical 
work ; but I find it very fatiguing, and the letters not so 
interesting as I hoped. I am dreadfully busy, and get on 
with my work well enough, but do it with very little 
heart. 



422 



LETTERS. 



[i89S- 



To Mrs Maxton Graham. Windsor, 6M April. 

I am such a poor correspondent nowadays that I hope 
you will pardon the delay of my congratulations on your 
great new acquisition, the dear baby, whose coming I 
have always thought is the most exquisite moment of a 
woman's life. I heard of her arrival with the greatest 
pleasure and sympathy with you in your joy; so, I am 
sure, will Madge, who is the most devoted of mothers, 
and will be truly delighted that you now share with her 
this great privilege and happiness. 

I am sending Miss Maxton Graham a little pair of 
shoes, the most foolish offering at present, but they will 
be useful afterwards. Our baby has reached the height 
of nearly seven months, which is an immense difference 
at present, but will not tell for much when the two are 
girl-friends, as I hope they may be. Our little Margaret 
is with me at present in her mother's absence. Don't 
forget our saintly ancestors in the naming of your little 
one. I think all the little girls of the race should be put 
under the protection of that douce patronne. 

The first anniversary of Cecco's death, October ist, 
was a day of terrible suffering. Mrs Oliphant, with 
her adopted child, made a pilgrimage to Eton to visit 
the cemetery where her two sons had been laid. 

To Mrs Harry Coghill. 

42 Albion Street, Hyde Park, W., October 2. 
I have not been up to writing, as I am sure you will 
understand. I am thankful that the immediate moment 
is over, and that all the details of the anguish of the past 
can be laid aside, at least as far as they ever can be. I 
cannot bear to think of my Cecco as — I can't write the 
word. He is always living to me, and that is what 
makes it so dreadful when the mind is forced upon all 
the last circumstances. I say to myself I will think of 
them no more, but only of him in the new life ; but, alas ! 



STRAINING EVERY NERVE. 



423 



how to keep to that. There was a wreath which we 
think must have come from you. God bless you, and 
thank you, dear Cousin Annie — I know you think of him. 

The short visit to London, during which this last letter 
was written, was made on the way to Paris. Mrs Oli- 
phant thought it advisable for her adopted daughter, who 
had already had some training in a Paris studio, to work 
there again for a short time, and they went to France, 
accompanied by Miss Tulloch. 

To Mr Blackwood. Paris, 26M October. 

Thanks very much for your long letter, which is full of 
information and interest. I have worked out the ' Tales 
of my Landlord' business, and I think have put Murray's 
behaviour at the end quite clearly. It is evident that it 
was his act by showing the as yet unpublished book to 
Gifford that was the special sting in Scott's mind. It is 
clear to me, by your grandfather's reply, that Ballantyne's 
amended version of Scott's letter was in reality quite gen- 
uine, and probably a second letter written after the hot 
and hasty one which Lockhart prints. I am sorry that 
you find it needful to go away, yet I am half disposed to 
congratulate you on it. It is dreary to spend these long 
cold months in the North after one has acquired the habit 
of migrating to the South and the sun. It seems to me, 
however, that it would be agreeable to you to see part of 
this book in print before you go away, so that I will strain 
every nerve to get the first three chapters, treating this 
Scott and Ballantyne business, and the establishment of 
the Magazine, ready to send by the 1st or 2nd November. 
. . . You will remember, however, that they must be 
subject to my large corrections and additions; for with 
such a mass of correspondence there is always some- 
thing turning up which I have not observed at first, 
and of course my knowledge grows as I go on, and the 
dim passages become clear. It is harder work than it 



424 



LETTERS. 



[1895. 



used to be, for the memory which has done me yeoman's 
service all my life is not now what it was. 

To Mrs Valentine. Paris, 12M December. 

... I had hoped much to get out to Notre Dame, 
but it is impossible, and I must just give it up. The last 
of these days of remembrance — my dear Cyril's birthday 
— it was a comfort and very sweet to me to spend an hour 
in the old, old church laden with the prayers of genera- 
tions ; and now my Cecco's day has come, and I must just 
content myself to thank God for him as I may at home. 
It is a dark day, and yet it must always be a bright and 
blessed one which gave him to me. I think all sorts of 
thoughts, as you know, all centring round the one great 
thought, and lately I have been saying to myself that God 
separated Himself from His Blessed Son for our sakes for 
thirty-three years, and I have been parted from my Cecco 
only for one. It could not be separation to God, who is 
everywhere ; but it must have been to our Lord, who for 
our everlasting consolation was a man. So He must 
know, as I am often tempted to say of myself, all the 
ways of it — parting of every kind ! The thing I dread 
most in the world is to live long, and to be swept as it 
were away from them, and things dulled to me perhaps 
by the passage of time, but I hope in God this may not 
be. I ought not to speak to you like this, perhaps, but I 
am sure you would rather share my trouble, my dear child, 
than be left out. 



1896.] 



A SHARP ILLNESS. 



425 



1896. 

Those most attached to Mrs Oliphant had been anxious 
ever since her last loss that she should find, temporarily 
at least, a home which would not at every turn and in 
every corner recall those gone from her. Her long nights 
of sleeplessness and tears were enough. We tried to 
persuade her to find new surroundings for her days, and 
at this time the scheme was carried out, and she moved 
to the little house on Wimbledon Common, where she 
spent the remainder of her life. 

A sharp illness which attacked Mrs Oliphant in the 
summer of this year should have done something to 
break her confidence in her own health. She was really 
in a condition to cause great anxiety, and her sufferings 
at times were most severe. The next letter is written 
by her much -loved niece and adopted daughter, who 
with Miss Tulloch and herself made up the little family 
at Wimbledon. 

Miss Oliphant to Mr Blackwood. Wimbledon, $rdjtdy. 

I think my letter must have crossed yours, but I know 
you will want to hear how my aunt is getting on. She 
has had internal inflammation, and though the acute pain 
is gone, she still suffers a good deal, and is very weak and 
pulled down — unlike herself in every way ; and the doctor 
evidently thinks it will be some time before she is well 
again. I can't help feeling very anxious about her, and 
the doctor has absolutely forbidden work or even talking ; 
but she must be kept quite quiet, and she is too weak to 
wish for anything else. She said she had received what 



426 



LETTERS. 



[1896U 



Miss Blackwood sent her, and it was only her illness pre- 
vented her acknowledging it. 

After a week or two Mrs Oliphant was able to resume 
work, though shaken and very feeble. 

To Mr Blackwood. Wimbledon, 25M August. 

... I have several times intended to speak of the very 
great vigour and fresh start which the Magazine seems to 
me to have taken during the last year. It has been more 
full of interesting articles, and altogether stronger than 
for a long time before. I have also for some time back 
intended to tell you, but always forgot, how much struck 
and amused I was by the pride and eagerness with which 
the young men jumped at the idea of being admitted to 
' Blackwood.' They evidently looked upon it as a chance 
almost too good to be true, which I don't think is at all 
the sentiment with which they regard the other maga- 
zines. What a very remarkable story that is in the last 
number of Sir James Brown ! I don't know when I have 
read anything so striking. 

Wimbledon, 3rd October. 
I have received the book, 1 and will take care of it, as 
you say, till it is published. Mr Lang sent me several 
chapters to read in the early summer, which I thought 
were rather dull — tell it not in Gath — with much virtuous 
indignation about ' Maga's ' personalities. . . . He has 
been very good-natured to me, and I shall say all I can 
for him. The illustrations seem to me at a first glance 
hideous, — he said they were so clever. 

Wimbledon, 6M October. 
. . . Lang's book contains a good deal of abuse of 
the Magazine as " a mother of mischief," &c, as interfer- 
ing seriously with Lockhart's prospects, and committing 
him to a literary life when he might have done brilliantly 
at the bar, &c, which accusations are very easily met. I 

1 Life of Lockhart. 



1896.] A HOLE IN THE FOREFINGER. 427 



do not think there is any word of disrespect to your 
grandfather personally. He has profited more or less by 
the criticisms I have already ventured to make. He in- 
sists, however, upon saying that Dr M'Crie and Sir David 
Brewster were early contributors along with Lockhart 
and Wilson. I have found no trace of them in the cor- 
respondence in this capacity, but I should like to be 
quite sure. As I am now out of work in respect to my 
more important business, I will do this review at once. 

I have worked a hole in my right forefinger — with the 
pen, I suppose I — and can't get it to heal, — also from ex- 
cessive use of that little implement. 

Wimbledon, 12M October. 
... I hope you will like this, and that I am not 
going too far, either in banter or in praise. . . . Has 
' Maga ' refused any communication of his ? It looks 
very like it. But his picture of Lockhart's last years is 
full of feeling, as I have said. 

Wimbledon, October 16. 
. . . Thanks for the further letters; my heart sinks 
to hear of them ! I received a note about a week ago 
saying that a box had been sent, from some one in 
your office whose handwriting I am quite familiar with, 
but no box has yet appeared. ... I have been much 
touched by finding several very kind allusions to my 
youthful self in your father's letters. It is strange to 
look back upon the beginning of a career, when one is 
so near its end. 

Wimbledon, utk December. 
I send you the enclosed 1 without having taken time to 
read it over, and it will, I fear, want a great deal of revision. 
It has been written not from the head but from the heart, 
and I am unable to form any impression whether it is 
good or bad in the hurry of my feelings, but no doubt I 
can much improve its form in correcting it. 

1 " The Land of Suspense," 4 Maga, 1 January 1897. 



428 



LETTERS. 



[1896. 



There is a quotation from Butler's ' Analogy ' to go at 
the head, which suggested the thought to me, though no 
doubt it has changed in passing through. 

This letter is only inserted because it is a kind of return 
to the brightness of past times. The gifts alluded to 
were to be the last Christmas gifts of a very long series. 

Wimbledon, 24M December. 

My dear , — I really don't know how to find words 

to thank you for the magnificent chair — nay, throne — 
which you have sent me, and which still overawes us all 
with its splendour. I hope by means of familiarity to get 
accustomed to the idea that it is for use, and a real seat 
to sit upon, and not an idol to which sacrifices of respect 
and admiration should be paid. Seriously, it is a most 
magnificent present. It looks in my little room so much 
more imposing than the other one does in the greater 

size of C , that I feel as if it must be much superior, 

bigger, and grander, and that I had no idea how costly 
and luxurious it was. 

And now, as if that were not already too much, here 
comes in a noble turkey fit for the biggest and the happiest 
Christmas table. Alas ! we will do it no justice. I only 
wish the Queen or some other distinguished person would 
pay us a visit to sit in my chair and eat of my good cheer. 
You are too kind, and I don't know how to thank you. 
The only thing I can do is to send you my love and best 
wishes for you and all yours for the coming year. . . . 

Much happiness and prosperity and every good thing. 
With love and thanks. 



1897 ] THE LAST OF AN OLD GENERATION. 



429 



1897. 

To Mr Blackwood. Wimbledon, yh January. 

I was just about to write to you on other matters when 
I received Emma's letter with the news of your aunt's 
death — I will not say the sad news. It is very solemnis- 
ing to hear suddenly of one so long known and familiar 
passing into the world unseen ; but you, I hope, feel as I 
do, that except for that shock, it is a blessing and comfort 
to feel that, having outlived herself so long, she has now 
recovered, as I hope, all that is best in life. 

We all know her faults ; but I am sure, from what she 
said to me, that she was trying very honestly and sin- 
cerely to keep God in her thoughts during those last 
years while she kept her intelligence still. She is the 
last of the old generation. I would have given a great 
deal that she had lived to see and understand the book 
which would have been so interesting to her, but I would 
not, God forbid, have prolonged a life that was no life, 
for a single day. 

In Mrs Oliphant's younger and brighter days she had 
had four dear and intimate women friends — Mrs Mac- 
pherson, Mrs Tulloch, Miss Blackwood, and Miss Fitz- 
Maurice, — and with all four her friendship had been long 
and unbroken. Two, and those the best loved, had at 
this time been dead for some years ; now both the others 
passed away in quick succession. Miss Blackwood had 
been lately too great a sufferer for her death to be re- 
gretted, yet it made another gap ; Miss Fitz-Maurice, who 
lived much nearer, was the last of the four to be taken. 



To Mr Craik. Wimbledon. 
Would you kindly send a copy of the ' Land of Dark- 



430 



LETTERS. 



[1897. 



ness' to , an unknown correspondent of mine, to 

whom in great trouble these books seem to have been 
of some use? 

I do not know if you will care to have the ' Land of 
Suspense/ to complete the series. It hurt me to publish 
anything so personal, but if there is any comfort in the 
communion of sorrowful souls, it was perhaps worth doing, 
and one's personality will be so soon blotted out. 

Wimbledon, 13M January. 

Thank you for the kind feeling and sympathy. I don't 
know very well what I have written, except that it is the 
overflow of a very full heart — perhaps too individual for 
publication ; but there are always many who are desolate 
to whom one puts out one's hand. 

From this thought we may perhaps put it with the 
4 Little Pilgrim,' in that series, if it is not too short, 
sometime. 

To Mr Blackwood. Wimbledon, 14M February. 

I feel that I have behaved very badly about this article, 
and I almost hope you will reject it. These "Looker-on'* 
papers become very difficult to me : I feel as if I had no 
longer the lightness of touch necessary for them, and 
there has been a want of topics to comment upon. Of 
the enclosed pages one should be inserted after the review 
of ' Margaret Ogilvie ' ; the other is the conclusion of the 
paper. 

To Mrs Richmond Ritchie. 

The Hermitage, Wimbledon Common, 16M February. 

Dearest Annie, — How amusing ! Laurence Oliphant 
said the same idea always occurred to three people. 

This, dear, is my little present to you. Make exactly 
what you please of it: it is nothing but the roughest 
sketch, but it amused me in a number of those twilight 
hours, which are the hardest to get through. 

Bon voyage and every pleasure to you. You'll go to see 



i897 ] WORK BECOMING BURDENSOME. 43 1 



George Macdonald — will you not ? — at Bordighera. Tell 
him I am not so patient as he is, but longing very much 
for the new chapter of life, where I hope we shall meet 
and talk all things over with better light upon them than 
here. — Ever affectionately, M. O. W. O. 

This note was sent with a dramatised copy of ' Esmond,' 
which Mrs Oliphant had amused herself with arranging 
in her leisure hours. She heard, however, from Mrs 
Ritchie, that already two other dramatised versions had 
been produced just about the same time, and it is to this 
she refers at the beginning of this letter. 

All this time Mrs Oliphant's health had been slowly but 
very visibly giving way. She was subject to attacks of 
severe pain, and was unable to walk more than a few 
yards. Work, which had been her comfort and stimulant, 
was beginning to be evidently burdensome. Even the 
crippling of her finger, where the pen seemed to have 
really worn through the skin by long usage, was both a 
symptom and an aggravation of her depressed physical 
condition. Her talk, however, if less bright, was as de- 
lightful as ever, and she retained the charm, which is 
surely the best of all social qualities. During her short 
stay at Coghurst she was very weak and suffering. Her 
work was done almost entirely in bed or on a sofa ; but 
she would come downstairs when the morning's task was 
finished, and be ready for bright and pleasant talk, and 
to interest herself in all our doings. In her company and 
in that of her host there could be no dulness : how could 
any one guess that in six months both the homes they 
brightened would be left desolate? 

To Mr Blackwood. Coghurst Hall, Hastings, Feb. 19. 

... I write to you at present to ask a question, for 
which I want a speedy answer if possible. If I am to 



432 



LETTERS. 



write something for May about the Queen and her 
Jubilee, how would it do to throw that into a " Looker- 
on"? This would prevent my name being put to it f 
which I don't wish — that is, I should prefer the paper 
to be anonymous. There will be so much flummery 
written everywhere on the subject that I had thought 
of a more serious article, noting all the important changes 
that had taken place in the Queen's reign, and called 
" 'Tis Sixty Years Since." 

I should like to know what you think of this. In the 
meantime I have had a letter from Dr Macleod of * Good 
Words,' asking me to do a short article of 4000 words on 
the same subject. That, of course, would have to be a 
mere rhapsody, and he would no doubt wish to put my 
name to it. I am in no way inclined towards the work, 
but I should like to have your opinion on the subject. If 
you wish me to write a signed article on the Queen's 
Reign, of course I should refuse Dr Macleod at once : if, 
on the other hand, you like the " Looker-on " form (which 
I do myself), I might consider what he proposes. If you 
would be so kind as to telegraph to me to-morrow, on 
receiving this, "No" or "Don't," I will write to him 
at once declining. He is anxious for an answer. 

It was with no little dismay that Mrs Oliphant's friends 
heard of the suggestion mentioned in the next letter — that 
she should take the journey to Siena. These hurried 
journeys for the purpose of gathering materials had been 
formerly easy enough to her, but she was now in a con- 
dition requiring rest, care, and warmth. Most unfor- 
tunately she did go, and it was the last journey she ever 
made. 

Wimbledon, igtk March. 
... I undertook some time since to write a little 
book for a series, upon the subject of Siena — a place 
which I do not know, having only once been there, — and 



SIENA. 



433 



I shall be obliged to go there to study the place a little. 
It is a very long and expensive journey, and I am not 
perhaps in strong enough health to risk it, but I fear it 
is quite indispensable. . . . 

I shall go to Siena, if I find it possible, about the 
second week in April. 

We have got Madge and her babies here, which makes 
the house lively. . . . 

I am by no means well, and easily worried, which is so 
different from all my habits ; and I seem to avoid every- 
thing I can possibly leave out. 

In the second week of April Mrs Oliphant started for 
Siena. . She had with her Miss Tulloch, who had chiefly 
lived with her for the last year or two, and her youngest 
niece. She was horribly fatigued by the journey, and had 
one of her frequent attacks of illness on her arrival ; but 
she managed to do what she thought necessary for her 
projected book, and returned home, with her gathered 
materials, at the end of the month. She had been much 
interested and charmed by the details of St Catherine's 
life and by some other gleanings from the Sienese chron- 
icles, and came back to Wimbledon feeling a little better, 
and able to set to work. 

But the improvement was of the most temporary kind, 
and a sharp attack of illness seized her directly after. 
Each of these attacks left her whiter and weaker, and, in 
spite of considerable divergence of medical opinions, it 
was impossible not to feel that most serious and probably 
fatal mischief was going on. The next letters show how 
she still worked, and still kept up her interest in the 
affairs of those she cared for. 

Grand Hotel, Siena, Good Friday, 16M April. 
I was pleased to get your letter yesterday. I send you 

2 £ 



434 



LETTERS. 



with this a farther despatch of proof, and should indeed 
have completed the volume, but that I have been a little 
upset with the long journey, which, however, I have got 
through better than I expected. This is a very interest- 
ing place, though there is an element of guide-book in 
what I am desired to do about it which does not please 
me much, and to which only my poverty, and not my will, 
consents. I will probably one day or other send you an 
article about Siena and its saint. I hope to get home 
again on or about the 24th, but may be a day or two 
later. 

Wimbledon, 30M April. 

I got home on Monday night feeling tolerably well ; but 
over-exertion seems to have acted upon my weak point, 
and I have been laid up by a small bout of my last 
summer's trouble since then. I am not out of bed, but I 
hope the worst is over. • . . 

I think your writer on fiction might have made his 
article more interesting if he had gone a little further. 
He might quite well have taken in Anthony Trollope and 
Charles Reade, whom I am always on fire about: they 
have never had justice done them, being both most 
admirable novelists, full of insight and power, the latter 
especially. And what was Dickens if not early Victorian ? 
Besides, the writer is very unjust to Bulwer, classing him 
with Lady Blessington. Bulwer was of course full of 
sham and cheap melodrama, but he knew what he was 
about, and his last books (the Caxton series) are of a high 
order. I suppose there was no man who had a greater 
command of the public in his day. To be sure, one might 
say the same of Miss Marie Corelli, who, by the way, 
in the only book of hers I can read, seems to be founded 
upon Bulwer. 

On the day following, the Princess of Wales held a 
Drawing-Room, and it had been arranged that a number 
of her friends were to meet at the house of her cousin 



THE JUBILEE. 



435 



after it. She had long promised that if possible she 
would be of the party, and she kept her word, really 
enjoying the little festivity — the last social occasion at 
which she was ever to assist. She was looking fairly 
well, and apparently moved about with less fatigue than 
she often did. She greatly enjoyed having both her nieces 
with her, and Mrs Valentine's two tiny children — the little 
Margaret especially, who was brought up to town to see 
the pretty dresses and play with another maiden of her 
own age. It was a very bright day, not presaging any 
evil, yet three of the most valued and beloved lives that 
went to make up its brightness were close to the end of 
their pilgrimage. 

She was none the worse for this expedition, for it 
was the very next day that the spirited verses for the 
Queen's Jubilee were written. They are given here, with 
the note that accompanied them to Mr Blackwood: — 

Wimbledon, igfk May, 
The enclosed little rant came to me, and wasted an hour 
or two of good time this morning. It is not worth send- 
ing to you, but there is a sort of a lilt about it. It might 
go in a fly-leaf, and if some one who knows my hand well 
would read it carefully there would be no need of proof 
In great haste. . . . 
Send it back if you don't like it. 

22ND June 1897. 

The trumpeters in a row, 

With a note as clear as a bell, 
And all the flutes and the fifes below, 
And the brazen throats, and the strings of fire, 

To let the people know 
That the Mother, the Queen, the heart's desire, 

From her palace forth doth go. 



LETTERS. 



[1897. 



Princes, form in array ! 

Great ye are, and greater may be ; 
But only guards and vassals to-day 
To the Lady enshrined in duty and love, 

Pacing forth on her way 
In weakness of age, and in power above 

All words we can sing or say. 

The streets that sound like the sea 

When the tumult of life is high, 
Now, in a murmur of voices free, 
Hum and ripple and rustle and stir, 

Straining each eye to see — 
To gaze and to watch and to wait for Her 

Whose subjects and lovers they be. 

Sons and lovers and subjects all, 

The high and the low together — 
From Princes that ride in the festival 
To us in the crowd who but shout and gaze ; 

Rendering, every man and all, 
Thanks to our God for her lengthened days 

And the nation's festival. 

Hark ! what is this which hushes the crowd ? 

A sound of silence amid the noise ; 
The sweep of a pause through the plaudits loud — 
A moment, a stillness, a start, a stir — 

The great heart of the multitude 
Holding its breath as it waits for Her, 

One being in all the crowd. 

She is coming, is coming ! The Queen ! the Queen ! 

Here is our moment in all the day. 
One voice for all, and the air serene 
Quivers, as if a storm blew by : 

A little more, and there had been 
Gates burst apart in the very sky, 
To hear a whole nation shouting on high — 

u The Queen ! the Queen ! the Queen ! n 



1897.] THE BEGINNING OF THE END. 437 

A week or so after this party just mentioned Mrs Oli- 
phant again drove up to town to her cousin's, in order to 
have a fresh and careful medical opinion. This opinion, 
which was of the most confidently hopeful kind, proved to 
be entirely wrong, and early in June the doctor who at- 
tended her at Wimbledon, in answer to her questions, told 
her he believed her state to be hopeless. Other opinions 
— one that of a distinguished surgeon — showed equally 
that what she called " the beginning of the end M had in- 
deed come. Her niece says : " To her this was longed-for 
and welcome news ; and when she had ascertained that 
no medical help could give her any permanent relief, she 
made up her mind, in the greatest serenity and happi- 
ness, to await the end. After the first week or so she was 
able to take very little nourishment. She was daily lifted 
to a sofa near the window, where she lay in great peace 
and content, sometimes reading or being read to, herself 
writing some letters of farewell to friends, or dictating 
others ; glad to have the letters read to her that came, as 
she said she wished to have their messages. Many times 
she said that she was at perfect ease in body and mind. 
All care and worry seemed to leave her. She said she felt 
as if she were lying somewhere waiting to be lifted up ; or 
again, as if she were lying in the deep grass of some flowery 
meadow, near the gate, waiting for our Lord to pass by. 
Her sleepless nights were filled with wonderful imagin- 
ings. She spoke of thinking herself in a ship in which 
was our Lord, who made with His robe a great white sail 
to carry her across a river. She said she could not think 
of God as the Almighty God of all the world, but just as 
her Father, and that at this moment even the thought of 
her children seemed to cease in the thought of Him. She 
thought the love of God came by degrees, and was certain 



438 



LETTERS. 



[1897. 



that the pity of God was boundless. She spoke of being 
always greatly helped by prayer and thought." 

In this serene atmosphere of perfect peace — satisfied 
that all was arranged as was best for her— she lay day 
after day waiting for the end. " I have no pain," she said 
one day ; " I am only waiting, and I hope I shall not have 
to wait very long, lest I should get impatient." One of 
her last letters is a short one to Mr Craik, in which she 
suggests the republication of some of her magazine stories, 
and adds, " Perhaps some one would write a small preface 
of my life to enable you to add £100." " I am dying," 
she concludes, " but not suffering much. Good-bye." 

When she could no longer write she dictated some 
notes, and on the 21st of June some verses, which, broken 
as their music is, are strangely touching. She desired 
that they should be sent to Mr Blackwood, thinking they 
might be printed as a sort of Envoi to the Jubilee verses 
already in his hand. This was not judged possible, but 
the lines, as her dying voice uttered them, may be given 
here : — 

On the edge of the world I lie, I lie, 

Happy and dying, and dazed and poor, 

Looking up from the vast great floor 

Of the infinite world that rises above 

To God, and to Faith, and to Love, Love, Love ! 

What words have I to that world to speak, 
Old and weary, and dazed and weak, 
From the very low to the very high ? 

Only this — and this is all : 
From the fresh green soil to the wide blue sky, 
From Greatness to Weariness, Life to Death, 
One God have we on whom to call ; 
One great bond from which none can fall ; 
Love below, which is life and breath, 
And Love above, which sustaineth all. 



i»97.] 



A TRANQUIL CLOSE. 



439 



She liked to be read to, as it wearied her less than 
talking ; and her little well-worn Bible, out of which all 
through their Eton lives her boys had daily read a verse 
or two to her before their terribly early start from home, 
lay on her bed, and was the best -loved of her books. 
One passage which she refers to in her Autobiography 
seemed to be often in her mind. It was the one in the 
ist Epistle to the Corinthians beginning, "For other 
foundation can no man lay." And she dwelt on the 
words, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall 
suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved ; yet so as by 
fire." The death of St Catherine of Siena was one thing 
she reverted to ; and another, Lockhart's account of Sir 
Walter Scott's last days. One afternoon, very near the 
end, she begged to have " Crossing the Bar " read ; and 
while the reader, painfully keeping her voice steady, 
repeated the last lines, the listener fell suddenly into a 
calm sleep. 

She wished at the last to live over the great day of the 
Queen's Jubilee ; and speaking to one of her little circle 
whom she was urging that " to please me " she should not 
disappoint her husband by staying away from the scene 
of the procession, she added, " I promise you shall have 
no bad news on the 22nd." She bore with great patience 
the noise of bands and fireworks on Wimbledon Common, 
though her windows looked full towards the scene of the 
merry-making, only remarking how little we who used to 
enjoy the fun and noise of an Eton 4th of June had 
thought that there might be some poor soul lying dying 
close by. " Through all, her wonderful security and ab- 
solute certainty that she was so soon to recover what she 
had lost seemed almost to transfigure her, making her 



440 



LETTERS. 



[1897. 



room, which she loved to have filled with flQwers, the one 
cheerful spot in the house." 

She lived till June 25th, and then softly passed away. 
The names of her boys were on her lips almost at the 
last, though she had said repeatedly, "I seem to see 
nothing but God and our Lord." 



LIST OF 



MRS OLIPHANT'S PUBLISHED WORKS. 
1 849. Mrs Margaret Maitland, Passages in the Life of Colbum. 



1851. Caleb Field 

ti Merkland : A Story of Scottish Life . . n 

1852. Adam Graeme of Mossgray, Memoirs and 

Resolutions of Hurst Blackett. 

1853. Katie Stewart Blackwood, 

it Harry Muir : A Story of Scottish Life . . Hurst 6r Blackett. 

1854. Quiet Heart : A Story Blackwood. 

11 Magdalen Hepburn : A Story of the Scottish 

Reformation Hurst &* Blackett. 

1856. Zaidee : A Romance Blackwood. 

1857. The Athelings ; or, The Three Gifts. 3 vols. » 

11 The Days of My Life Hurst 6r* Blackett. 

1858. Sundays Nisbet. 

11 The Laird of Nordlaw Hurst Gr> Blackett. 

n Orphans : A Chapter in Life .... n 

1859. Agnes Hopetoun's Schools and Holidays . Macmillan. 

it Lilliesleaf: Conclusion of * Margaret Maitland ' Hurst Blackett. 

1860. Lucy Crofton m 

1861. The House on the Moor it 

1862. The Last of the Mortimers .... tt 
11 Life of Edward Irving. 2 vols. ... n 

1863. The Rector and the Doctor's Family. 3 vols. Blackwood. 
11 Salem Chapel. 2 vols. » 

11 Heart and Cross Chapman &* Hall. 

1864. The Perpetual Curate Blackwood 

1866. Agnes. 3 vols Hurst cV Blackett. 

ti Miss Marjoribanks Blackwood. 

n A Son of the Soil Macmillan. 

1867. Madonna Mary. 3 vols. .... Hurst cV* Blackett. 

1868. The Brownlows. 3 vols Blackwood 

•1 Francis of Assisi (Sunday Library) . . Macmillan. 

1869. Historical Sketches of the Reign of George II. Blackwood 

2 vols. 

ii The Minister's Wife Hurst cV Blackett. 



442 LIST OF MRS OLIPHANT'S PUBLISHED WORKS. 



1870. John : A Love Story. 2 vols. . . . Blackwood. 

11 The Three Brothers. 3 vols. . . . Hurst Blackett. 
11 Introductory Chapter to 'Life of Robert 

Lee,' by R. H. Story .... n 

1 87 1. Squire Arden. 3 vols m 

1872. At His Gates. 3 vols Tinsley. 

•1 Ombra, &c. 3 vols Chapman 6>* Hall. 

11 Memoirs of the Count de Montalembert : 

A Chapter of recent French History . Blackwood. 

1873. May. 3 vols Chapman 6r* Hall. 

11 Innocent : A Tale of Modern Life . Sampson Low. 

1874. A Rose in June. 2 vols Hurst &* Blackett. 

n For Love and Life. 3 vols. ... u 

1875. The Story of Valentine and his Brother. 

3 vols Blackwood. 

ti Whiteladies. 3 vols. Chatto. 

tt Preface to ' Art of Swimming in the Eton 

Style/ by J. Leahy .... Macmillan. 

1876. The Curate in Charge. 2 vols. . . . Beccles. 
11 Phoebe, Junior : A Last Chronicle of Car- 

lingford. 3 vols. Hurst Blackett. 

11 Dress (Art at Home Series) . . . Macmillan. 
11 The Makers of Florence : Dante, Giotto, 

Savonarola, and their City ... n 

1877. Foreign Classics for English Readers : 

Cervantes ; Dante ; and Moliere (in 

conjunction with F. Tarver) . . . Blackwood. 

11 Young Musgrave. 3 vols Macmillan. 

11 Mrs Arthur. 3 vols. ..... Hurst &* Blackett. 

11 Carita. 3 vols Smith, Elder, cV Co. 

1878. Postscript to ' Life of Anna Jameson,' by G. 

Macpherson Longmans. 

11 The Primrose Path : A Chapter in the 

Annals of the Kingdom of Fife. 3 vols. Hurst &* Blackett. 

1879. Within the Precincts. 3 vols. . . . Smith, Elder, dr* Co. 
it The Two Mrs Scudamores (Tales from 

Blackwood) Blackwood. 

11 The Greatest Heiress in England. 3 vols. Hurst &* Blackett. 

1880. A Beleaguered City Macmillan. 

11 He that Will Not when he May. 3 vols. . h 

1 88 1. Harry Joscelyn. 3 vols Hurst Blackett. 

1882. In Trust : A Story of a Lady and her Lover. 

3 vols Longmans. 

11 Literary History of England in the End of 
the Eighteenth and Beginning of the 
Nineteenth Century. 3 vols. . . Macmillan. 

11 A Little Pilgrim in the Unseen ... 



LIST OF MRS OLIPHANT'S PUBLISHED WORKS. 443 



1883. Sheridan (English Men of Letters) . . Macmillan. 
ti Introduction to ' Cowper the Poet ' . . . n 

11 Hester : A Story of a Contemporary Life. 3 

vols. ........ 11 

11 It was a Lover and his Lass. 3 vols. . . Hurst &* Blackett. 

11 The Ladies Lindores. 3 vols. . . . Blackwood. 

1884. Sir Tom. 3 vols Macmillan. 

•1 The Wizard's Son. 3 vols n 

1885. Two Stories of the Seen and Unseen . Blackwood. 
11 Madam. 3 vols Longmans. 

1886. Oliver's Bride : A True Story . . . Wardfr Downey. 
11 A Country Gentleman and his Family. 3 vols. Macmillan. 

11 Effie Ogilvie. 2 vols Maclehose6r*Sons. 

ti A House Divided against Itself. 3 vols. . Blackwood. 

1887. The Makers of Venice : Doges, Conquerors, 

Painters, and Men of Letters . . . Macmillan. 

•1 The Son of his Father. 3 vols. . . . Hurst 6r* Blackett. 

1888. The Land of Darkness, along with some 

Further Chapters in the Experience of the 

Little Pilgrims Macmillan. 

it Joyce. 3 vols 11 

11 The Second Son. 3 vols h 

i» John Tulloch, Memoir of the Life of . . Blackwood. 

11 Cousin Mary Partridge. 

1889. Neighbours on the Green : A Collection of 

Stories Macmillan. 

11 A Poor Gentleman. 3 vols. .... Hurst &* Blackett. 

11 Lady Car : The Sequel of a Life . . . Longmans. 
189a Kirsteen : A Story of a Scottish Family 

Seventy Years Ago Macmillan. 

11 The Duke's Daughter and The Fugitives. 3 

vols Blackwood. 

11 Sons and Daughters u 

it Royal Edinburgh : Her Saints, Kings, Pro- 
phets, and Poets Macmillan. 

11 The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow . . . Hurst &* Blackett. 

1891. The Railway Man and his Children. 3 vols. Macmillan. 

11 Janet. 3 vols Hurst &* Blackett. 

if Jerusalem : Its History and Hope . . Macmillan. 

it Laurence Oliphant, and Alice Oliphant, his 

Wife, Memoirs of the Life of . . . Blackwood. 

1892. The Cuckoo in the Nest 3 vols. . . . Hutchinson. 
11 Diana Trelawny: The Story of a Great 

Mistake. 2 vols Blackwood 

11 The Marriage of Elinor. 3 vols. . . . Macmillan. 
11 The Victorian Age of English Literature (with 

F. R. Oliphant). 2 vols. .... Rivington 6> Co. 



444 LIST OF MRS OLIPHANT'S PUBLISHED WORKS. 



1892. The Heir Presumptive and the Heir Ap- 

parent 3 vols Macmillan. 

1893. Lady William. 3 vols 11 

it The Sorceress. 3 vols F.V. White. 

it Thomas Chalmers, Preacher, Philosopher, 
and Statesman {English Leaders of Re- 
ligion) Methuen. 

1894. A House in Bloomsbury. 2 vols. . . Hutchinson. 
tt Historical Sketches of the Reign of Queen 

Anne Macmillan. 

tt Who was Lost and is Found . . . Blackwood. 

tt The Prodigals and their Inheritance. 2 vols. Methuen. 

1895. A Child's History of Scotland . . . Fisher Unwin* 
ti Two Strangers it 

it Sir Robert's Fortune : A Story of a Scotch 

Moor Methuen. 

11 The Makers of Modern Rome . . . Macmillan. 

1896. Jeanne d'Arc: Her Life and Death {Heroes 

of the Nations) Putnam. 

11 The Unjust Steward; or, The Minister's 

Debt W.&*R. Chambers. 

it The Two Marys Methuen. 

tt Old Mr Tredgold Longmans. 

1897. The Lady's Walk Methuen. 

11 The Ways of Life. Two Stories . . Smith, Elder, &• Co. 

it The Sisters Bronte* ( Women Novelists) . Hurst 6> BlacketL 

tt Annals of a Publishing House : William 
Blackwood and his Sons, their Magazine 

and Friends, vols, i., ii Blackwood. 

1898. A Widow's Tale ; and other Stories . . it 

11 That Little Cutty ; and Two other Stories . Macmillan. 



MRS OLIPHANTS CONTRIBUTIONS TO 



•BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE/ 



Katie Stewart July 1852-Nov. 1852. 

John Rintoul March and April 1853. 

The Shadow on the Way June 1853. 

The Quiet Heart . . . . . . Dec 1853-May 1854. 

Mary Russell Mitford June 1854. 

Evelyn Pepys July 1854. 

The Holy Land Sept. 1854. 

Zaidee : A Romance Dec. 1854-Dec 1855. 

Mr Thackeray and his Novels . . . . Jan. 1855. 

Bulwer Feb. 1855. 

Charles Dickens April 1855. 

Modern Novelists May 1855. 

Modern Light Literature — 

Theology July 1855. 

Science Aug. 1855. 

History Oct 1855. 

Travellers' Tales Nov. 1855. 

Art Dec 1855. 

Poetry Feb. 1856. 

Religion in Common Life .... »• 

Sydney Smith March 1856. 

The Laws Concerning Women . . . April 1856. 

The Athelings June 1856-June 1857. 

Macaulay Aug. and Sept 1856. 

Family History Oct. 1856. 

A New Una n 

The Art of Cavilling Nov. 1856. 

A Christmas Tale Jan. 1857. 

Picture Books March 1857. 

Charles the Fifth July 1857. 

Modern Light Literature : Society . . . Oct. 1857. 

From India n 

Be'ranger Jan. 1858. 

The Condition of Women .... Feb. 1858. 



446 CONTRIBUTIONS TO 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.' 



The Missionary Explorer April 1858. 

Religious Memoirs June 1858. 

The Byways of Literature .... Aug. 1858. 

Edward Irving Nov. 1858. 

Sermons Dec 1858. 

A Winter Journey April 1859. 

Felicita Aug. and Sept 1859. 

The Seaside in the Papal States . . . Oct. 1859. 

A Week in Florence Nov. 1859. 

Scottish National Character .... June i860. 

Poetry July i860. 

The Romance of Agostini .... Sept. i860- Nov. i860. 

Social Science Dec i860. 

A Merry Christmas Jan. 1861. 

The Executor May 1861. 

The Monks of the West June 1861. 

Joseph Wolff Aug. 1861. 

Three Days in the Highlands .... it 

Scotland and her Accusers .... Sept. 1861. 

The Rector u 

Chronicles of Carlingford : The Doctor . . Oct. 1861-Jan. 1862. 

Among the Lochs Oct. 1861. 

Augustus Welby Pugin Dec 1861 

J. M. W. Turner, R.A Jan. 1862. 

The Nation's Prayer it 

Chronicles of Carlingford : Salem Chapel . Feb. 1862-Jan. 1865. 

The Lives of Two Ladies .... April 1862. 

Sensation Novels May 1862. 

The New Exhibition June 1862. 

David Wingate July 1862. 

Sermons Aug. 1862. 

John Wilson Dec 1862. 

Henri Lacordaire Feb. 1863. 

Mrs Clifford's Marriage March and April 1863. 

Marriage Bells April 1863. 

Savonarola June 1863. 

The Perpetual Curate June 1863-Sept 1864. 

Novels Aug. 1863. 

In the Garden n 

Amen in the Cathedral of St Andrews . Oct. 1863. 

Tara Nov. 1863. 

The Life of Jesus Oct. 1864. 

Life on an Island Jan. 1865. 

Day and Night '11 

Miss Marjoribanks Feb. 1865-May 1866. 

Josiah Wedgwood Aug. 1865. 



CONTRIBUTIONS TO 4 BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.' 447 



Leopardi Oct. 1865. 

French Periodical Literature .... Nov. 1865. 

General Lamoriciere Feb. 1866. 

The Nile Aug. 1866. 

The Great Unrepresented .... Sept. 1866. 

Victor Hugo Dec. 1866. 

The Brownlows Jan. 1867-Feb. 1868. 

The History of Scotland March 1867. 

The Innermost Room „ 

Elizabeth and Mary April 1867. 

Novels Sept 1867. 

A Royal Idyll t, 

A City of the Plague Oct. 1867. 

The Conversion of England .... Dec. 1867. 

The Queen of the Highlands .... Feb. 1868. 
Historical Sketches of the Reign of George II. — 

The Queen u 

Walpole : The Minister .... April 1868. 

Chesterfield : The Man of the World . May 1868. 

The Latest Lawgiver June 1868. 

Historical Sketches of the Reign of George II. — 

Lady Mary W. Montagu . . . . July 1868. 

Pope : The Poet Aug. 1868. 

The Young Chevalier .... Sept. 1868. 

Bunsen n 

Historical Sketches of the Reign of George II.— 

John Wesley : The Reformer . . Oct. 1868. 

Anson : The Sailor Dec. 1868. 

Berkeley : The Philosopher Jan. 1869. 

Richardson : The Novelist . . . March 1869. 

Hume : The Sceptic June 1869. 

Hogarth : The Painter .... Aug. 1869. 

Charles Reade's Novels Oct. 1869. 

John Nov. 1869-Jiily 187a 

Saint Eloy sur les Dunes Nov. 1869. 

Mr Froude and Queen Mary .... Jan. 1870. 

Miss Austen and Miss Mitford . . March 1870. 

Chatterton April 187a 

Count Charles de Montalembert ... »» 

New Books May and Aug. 1870. 

Piccadilly (review) Oct. 187a 

Boating on the Thames " 

New Books .... Nov. 1870, and Jan. and April 1871. 

Charles Dickens June 1870. 

A Century of Great Poets: Cowper . . June 1871. 

New Books July 1871. 



448 CONTRIBUTIONS TO 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE. 1 



A Century of Great Poets — 

Walter Scott .... 
Wordsworth .... 

American Books .... 

New Books 

A Century of Great Poets : Coleridge 

The Two Mrs Scudamores 

A Century of Great Poets : Burns . 

Voltaire 

A Century of Great Poets : Shelley . 

New Books 

A Century of Great Poets : Byron . 

New Books 

William Smith 

A Century of Great Poets : Goethe . 

New Books 

In London 

Lord Lytton 

Kenelm Chillingley .... 

Alexandre Dumas .... 

A Century of Great Poets : Schiller 

A Visit to Albion .... 

New Books 

A Railway Junction .... 

New Books 

The Story of Valentine . 

The Indian Mutiny : Sir Hope Grant 

Fables in Song 

New Books 

Two Cities : Two Books . 

New Books 

The Ancient Classics 

The Ancient Classics : Latin Literature 

Life of the Prince Consort 

New Books 

Art in May 

New Books 

Rivers 

Michael Angelo 
Lace and Bric-a-Brac 
A Century of Great Poets 
Thackeray's Sketches 
Eton College . 
Norman Macleod 
Macaulay . 
The Royal Academy 



Lamartine 



Aug. 187 1. 
Sept. 1 87 1. 
Oct 1871. 
11 

Nov. 1 87 1. 
Dec. 1 87 1 -Jan. 1872. 
Feb. 1872. 
March 1872. 
April 1872. 
April and June 1872. 
July 1872. 
Aug. 1872. 
Oct 1872. 
Dec. 1872. 
Dec. 1872 and Feb. 1873. 
Feb. 1873. 
March 1873. 
May 1873. 
July 1873. 
Aug. 1873. 
11 

Sept 1873. 

Oct 1873. 

Nov. 1873. 

Jan. 1874-Feb. 1875. 

Jan. 1874. 

Feb. 1874. 

April and June 1874. 
July 1874. 
Aug. 1874. 
Sept 1874. 
Nov. 1874. 
Jan. 1875. 
May 1875. 
June 1875. 
July 1875- 
Aug. 1875. 
Oct. 1875. 
Jan. 1876. 
Feb. 1876. 
11 

March 1876. 
April 1876. 
May 1876. 
June 1876. 



CONTRIBUTIONS TO 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.' 449 



Moliere .... 
Alfred de Musset 
The Secret Chamber 
New Books 
Lord Neaves 
Harriet Martineau . 
A School of the Prophets . 
The Opium-Eater . 
New Books 

Englishmen and Frenchmen 
Three Days in Paris 
Novels of Alphonse Daudet 
Two Ladies 

Hamlet .... 
New Books 
An American Princess 
The Reign of Queen Anne 
Novels of Tourgenieff 
School and College . 
New Novels 
Autobiographies 
A Few French Novels 
The Open Door 
Recent Novels . 
The Ladies Lindores 
Democracy 
Autobiographies 
American Literature 
Autobiographies 
James Fergusson 
An Italian Officer under Napol 
The Story of a Little War 
Old Lady Mary 
Sons of the Prophets 
The Duke of Albany 
Venice 

Three Young Novelists 
An Artist's Autobiography 
The Portrait . 
A Soldier of Fortune 
London in May 
General Gordon 
A Scotch Physician . 
London in January . 
Scotch Local History 
Principal Tulloch 



Jan., March, 



leon 



Aug. 1876. 
Sept. 1876. 
Dec. 1876. 
Feb. 1877. 
March 1877. 
April 1877. 
Sept. 1877. 
Dec. 1877. 

March and June 1878. 
Aug. 1878. 
Oct. 1878. 
Jan. 1879. 
Feb. 1879. 
April 1879. 
July 1879. 
Nov. 1879. 
Feb. 1880. 
May 1880. 
July 1880. 
Sept. 1880. 
May, Aug., and Oct. 1881. 
Dec. 1881. 
Jan. 1882. 
March 1882. 
April 1882-May 1883. 
May 1882. 
July 1882. 
Jan. 1883. 
April 1883. 
Aug. 1883. 
Sept. 1883. 
Oct. 1883. 
Jan. 1884. 
April 1884. 
May 1884. 
July 1884. 
Sept 1884. 
Nov. 1884. 
Jan. 1885. 
April 1885. 
May 1885. 
Aug. 1885. 
Nov. 1885. 
Feb. 1886. 
March 1886. 
March and April 1886. 



2 F 



450 CONTRIBUTIONS TO 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.' 



Novels 

The Land of Darkness 
The Old Saloon 
Joyce 

The Old Saloon 
The Rev. W. Lucas Collins 
The Old Saloon 
Marco Polo 
The Old Saloon 
Pictures of the Year . 
The Old Saloon 
On the Dark Mountains 
The Old Saloon 
The Emperor Frederick 
Laurence Oliphant . 
The Old Saloon 
On the Riviera . 
The Old Saloon 
Sons and Daughters 
The Old Saloon 
Lord Laroington 
The Holy Land 
The Old Saloon 
Diana 

The Old Saloon 
The Duke of Clarence 
The City of St Andrews 
The Old Saloon 
Tennyson . 
The Old Saloon 
A Visitor and his Opinions 
Marriage Bells . 
Letters of Sir Walter Scott 
Dean Stanley . 
Who was Lost and is Found 
The Looker-on . 
An Eton Master 
The Looker-on . 
Fancies of a Believer 
Men and Women 
John Stuart Blackie . 
The Looker-on . 
Anti-Marriage League 
The Library Window 
The Heirs of Kellie . 
The Looker-on . 



June, Aug., Nov. 



Dec 1886. 
Jan. 1887. 
Jan., Feb., March, and April 1887. 

May 1887-April 1888. 
May 1887. 



June 1887-Aug. 1887. 
Sept 1887. 
Nov. 1887 and Jan. 1888. 
June 1888. 

June and Sept 1888. 
Nov. 1888. 
Dec 1888. 
Jan. 1889. 
Feb. 1889. 

March and April 1889. 
May 1889. 
Dec 1889, and Jan. 189a 
March and April 189a 
March 189a 



July 189a 

Aug. and Nov. 1891. 
Feb. 1 892- July 1892. 
Feb. 1892. 
ii 

March 1892. 

March and Oct 1893. 

Nov. 1892. 

Dec 1892. 

April 1893. 

July 1893. 

Jan. 1894. 

Feb. 1894. 

June 1 894- Nov. 1894. 
Aug. 1894. 
Nov. 1894. 
Jan. 1895. 
Feb. 1895. 
April 1895. 
ti 

June and Dec 1895. 
Jan. 1896. 
it 

March 1896. 

June and Oct 18961 



CONTRIBUTIONS TO 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.' 



The Verdict of Old Age 

J. G. Lockhart . 

A Raid Among Books 

The Land of Suspense 

Recent Books . 

Tis Sixty Years Since 

22nd June . 

Siena 



Oct. 1896. 
Nov. 1896. 
Dec. 1896. 
Jan. 1897. 
April 1897. 
May 1897. 
June 1897. 
July 1898. 



THE END. 



PKIMTRD BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AMD SONS.